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"Central Park Karen" is the white cop-caller nickname of Amy Cooper, who was recorded calling the police on an African American birder in Central Park in New York City after being asked by him to leash her dog in the park. After a video of the altercation went viral, Cooper apologized for the incident. The name Karen is used online as a pejorative for middle-aged white women with a grandiose level of entitlement who often engage in combative arguments in public.
On May 25th, 2020, Christian Cooper published a video of an altercation with Amy Cooper (no relation), which took place in the Ramble, a popular section of Central Park for bird watching. He wrote:
Central Park this morning: This woman's dog is tearing through the plantings in the Ramble.
ME: Ma'am, dogs in the Ramble have to be on the leash at all times. The sign is right there.
HER: The dog runs are closed. He needs his exercise.
ME: All you have to do is take him to the other side of the drive, outside the Ramble, and you can let him run off-leash all you want.
HER: It's too dangerous.
ME: Look, if you're going to do what you want, I'm going to do what I want, but you're not going to like it.
HER: What's that?
ME (to the dog): Come here, puppy!
HER: He won't come to you.
ME: We'll see about that…
I pull out the dog treats I carry for just for such intransigence. I didn't even get a chance to toss any treats to the pooch before Karen scrambled to grab the dog.
HER: DON'T YOU TOUCH MY DOG!!!!!
That's when I started video recording with my iPhone, and when her inner Karen fully emerged and took a dark turn…
The video received more than 12,000 comments, 7,200 shares and 6,900 reactions (shown below).
That day, Christian's sister Melody published the video on Twitter. She wrote, "Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash." The post received more than 24 million views, 341,000 likes and 159,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below).
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm
— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
Following the post, the incident trended under the hashtag "#AmyCooper" and "Central Park Karen." Some online began researching Cooper's past and posting criticisms of her behavior and her dog ownership online. Twitter user @Chinchillazllla posted a series of posts from Cooper's dog-focused Instagram. They wrote, "never seen someone who had Munchausen by proxy through their dog before, but #AmyCooper has pulled it off." The post received mroe than 11,000 likes and 1,700 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, left).
As a result, the shelter where Cooper adopted the dog released a statement on Facebook. They wrote, "Thank you to the concerned public for reaching out to us about a video involving a dog that was adopted from our rescue a few years ago. As of this evening, the owner has voluntarily surrendered the dog in question to our rescue while this matter is being addressed. Our mission remains the health and safety of our rescued dogs. The dog is now in our rescue’s care and he is safe and in good health. We will not be responding to any further inquiries about the situation, either publicly or privately. Thank you for your understanding." The post recieved mroe tahn 3,400 reactions, 1,300 comments and 500 shares in less than 24 hours (shown below, center).
Some online also tracked down where Cooper works. Franklin Templeton, a mulitnational holding company and Cooper's employer announced on Twitter that she had been put on administrative leave (shown below, right).
The following day, Cooper spoke to CNN and apologized for the incident. CNN published:
Amy Cooper told CNN she wanted to "publicly apologize to everyone."
"I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way," she said, adding that she also didn't mean any harm to the African American community.
She told NBC:
I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family. It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended…everyone who thinks of me in a lower light and I understand why they do.
When I think about the police, I’m such a blessed person. I’ve come to realize especially today that I think of [the police] as a protection agency, and unfortunately, this has caused me to realize that there are so many people in this country that don’t have that luxury.
Christian Cooper told NBC:
I'm not going to participate in my own dehumanization. I'm not going to feed into this.
We live in an age of Ahmaud Arbery where black men are gunned down because of assumptions people make about black men, black people, and I’m just not going to participate in that.
When asked by CNN if he would accept the apology, he said that he would "if it's genuine and if she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in the Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the video. He wrote, "The video out of Central Park is racism, plain and simple. She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man. Even though she was the one breaking the rules. She decided he was the criminal and we know why. This kind of hatred has no place in our city." The post received more than 1,300 reactions and 300 retweets in less than six hours (shown below).
Charges Against Amy Cooper
On July 6th, 2020, authorities charged Cooper with filing a false report, which is "a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail," according to the New York Times. Of the charges, her lawyer, Robert Barnes said, "She lost her job, her home, and her public life. Now some demand her freedom? How many lives are we going to destroy over misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?" Christian Cooper had "no reaction" to the news.
 New York Times – Amy Cooper Faces Charges After Calling Police on Black Bird Watcher