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In recent days, two videos have circulated widely on social media depicting what many viewers say is unfair and even violent mistreatment of black men by white people. In one video, a white woman walking her dog off-leash calls the police on a black man, and in another, four white policemen arrest a black man. Many people are demanding justice for both men – Chris Cooper of New York and George Floyd of Minneapolis – and stating that neither one did anything wrong.
Who is Chris Cooper?
Chris Cooper, a black man and prominent figure in LGBTQ+ comic book circles, filmed a video of a white woman, Amy Cooper (no relation), calling the police after he asked her to put her dog on a leash. The two were in a part of New York City’s famous Central Park that requires dogs to be leashed, as this section of the park is popular among birdwatchers. Chris’s video began circulating on social media when his sister, Melody, posted it.
Chris was birdwatching shortly before his encounter with Amy, and when she threatened to call the police after he asked her to leash her dog, he began filming a video of her. In the video, Amy is seen saying “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops. I’m gonna tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Throughout the video, Chris is nonviolent and cooperative. He was ultimately not arrested, fined, or charged with any crimes, and he emerged from the incident physically unharmed.
The backlash to Amy’s actions has been so strong that her employer has fired her. She has surrendered her dog to the rescue from which she adopted it, and she has issued an apology for her actions. However, in an interview following the incident, she insisted that she felt threatened.
Who is George Floyd?
Whereas the Chris Cooper dispute was a nonviolent interaction between two strangers, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police Monday. Like the Chris Cooper dispute, video of Floyd’s death rapidly circulated on social media, ultimately leading to the firing of the four police officers involved in Floyd’s death.
In the video, a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, is seen kneeling directly on Floyd’s neck. Floyd repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe,” the same phrase that Eric Garner said during his death at the hands of the NYPD in 2014. Garner’s death turned the phrase “I can’t breathe” into a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and protestors who took to Minneapolis streets on Tuesday night to protest Floyd’s death chanted this phrase. Police responded to the protestors with riot gear, tear gas, and projectiles, and the demonstrators responded with water bottles and rocks.
In a television interview, Floyd’s family called for the four police officers involved in his death to be charged with murder. The officers have been fired, and the FBI is investigating their actions. To many people on social media, both Floyd’s death and Chris Cooper’s Central Park incident are steeped in racism and recall Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, video of which went viral on social media just earlier this month.