The Black victim of a racist incident in Central Park that captured much of the nation's attention on Monday is Christian Cooper, a former editor for Marvel who introduced the first gay character into the Star Trek comics.
Now a biomedical editor at Health Science Communications, Cooper is also an avid birdwatcher who, now infamously, asked a white woman to leash her dog, as per the rules of Manhattan's Central Park. In a video recorded by Cooper on Sunday morning, the woman responded to the request by running towards Cooper, demanding he shut off his phone camera, threatening to call the police and telling them an "African-American man is threatening" her life. Then she follows through with her threat on a call to 911 as her dog jumps up and down and yelps from the stranglehold she has on him.
Christian Cooper remained calm throughout the incident, telling the woman — now identified as Amy Cooper (no relation) — she can say whatever she wants to the police.
The incident began because Amy Cooper was allowing her dog to run free in a sensitive area of the park where many birds nest. Her decision to threaten Christian Cooper for asking her to abide by the rules and then calling the police on him, while pointing out his race several times, is a vivid example of white people weaponizing the police against Black and POC people. From Black people using public restrooms or grilling in public parks, dozens of incidents of white people unnecessarily calling the police on POC have gone viral — just as Christian Cooper's did after his sister posted it to social media.
False reports aren't the main concern when white people unnecessarily call the police on POC, it's the violence that can ensue when armed officers respond to mundane incidents elevated by emotion. The same day Amy Cooper called the police on Christian Cooper, a forgery was reported to Minneapolis police. Officers arrested a Black man matching the forger's description. During the arrest, one of the officers held the man down by jamming a knee into his neck. Before the Black man died he said that he couldn't breathe as the officer's knee was thrust into his neck.
Back in New York, Amy Cooper apologized for her behavior, claiming she is not racist. She has now been fired from her position at an investment firm and has returned her cocker spaniel to the shelter where she obtained him.
Christian Cooper has said he is not seeking more punitive actions against the woman. The gay, Harvard-educated science editor is known in comic circles as the man behind the Star Trek character of Yoshi Mishima. In a 1998 interview, Cooper said he wrote Mishima "gay all along, but I just never came right out and said it."
A request by The Advocate for additional comment on the incident was not immediately returned by Christian Cooper.