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NYC Commission on Human Rights investigating racially-charged Central Park video

Posted at 11:27 AM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 11:27:13-04

NEW YORK — New York City's Commission on Human Rights said Wednesday it is launching an investigation into a viral video of a white woman in Central Park who called 911 and falsely accused a black man of threatening her.

The video shows the Monday morning dispute between Amy Cooper and the man who recorded the video, Christian Cooper (no relation). The clip end with the woman calling police after the avid bird watcher told her to leash her dog. The incident occurred in the Ramble area of Central Park, and rules require dogs to be leashed in the area.

In the video, Amy Cooper said that she was going to call the police and tell them "there's an African American man threatening my life." She eventually did just that, while Christian Cooper stood calmly in silence at a distance.

"At a time when the devastating impacts of racism in black communities have been made so painfully clear — from racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, to harassment of essential workers on the front lines — it is appalling to see these types of ugly threats directed at one New Yorker by another," said Sapna V. Raj, deputy commissioner of the Law enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

"Efforts to intimidate black people by threatening to call law enforcement draw on a long, violent and painful history, and they are unacceptable," Raj said.

The Commission said it had issued a letter of inquiry to Amy Cooper.

"We encourage Ms. Cooper to cooperate with the Commission and meaningfully engage in a process to address the harm that she has caused," a press release said.

In a press release, the Commission said that under New York City's Human Rights Law, it is illegal to engage in discriminatory harassment to harm or threaten to harm someone based solely on their race, national origin, ethnicity, or any other protected category.

The Commission said it has the authority to fine violators of the law, as well as order sensitivity training on the Human Rights Law.

For victims, the Commission can award compensatory damages for such incidents, including emotional distress damages and other benefits.

Since the video's release, Amy Cooper has fired by her employer and voluntarily surrendered custody of her dog to a rescue organization.

Cooper has also since apologized for her actions and has claimed she is not a racist.

This story was originally published by Mark Sundstrom on WPIX in New York.