Earlier this week, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said his office had filed charges against Amy Cooper, a white woman who went viral earlier this summer when she frantically threatened to call the cops on a Black bird watcher. She’s been charged with filing a false police report, a class “A” misdemeanor.”
But the man directly affected by her actions, Christian Cooper, made it clear in a statement with the New York Times Tuesday that he has no intention of cooperating with prosecutors.
“On the one hand, she’s already paid a steep price,” Cooper said in a statement on Tuesday. “That’s not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on.”
According to the Times, Cooper “added that he understood there was a greater principle at stake,” and didn’t negate the necessity of the charges.
“If the DA feels the need to pursue charges, he should pursue charges. But he can do that without me,” the 57-year-old said.
Alvin Bragg, a professor at New York Law School and a former federal prosecutor, told the Times the district attorney has sufficient evidence to present a case against Amy Cooper without Christian Cooper’s cooperation.
“There is a false weepy tone and she strategically placed significance on race,” Bragg said. “She is harping on deep historical issues in our country. She is emphasizing those words and she knows the effect it can have on the listener.”
As Black Lives Matter protests have foregrounded an array of criminal justice demands, there is friction over what to do with people like Amy Cooper, who attempted to weaponize the criminal justice system against a Black man—apparently with full knowledge of the threat it posed to his safety—as well as cops who have abused and killed civilians.
On one end of the spectrum are police and prison abolitionists, for whom defunding the police is just one step toward a complete dismantling and reimagining of the criminal justice system as we know it. Among them is Josie Duffy Rice, president of the criminal justice-centered website, The Appeal, who pointed out that Amy Cooper had already suffered consequences for her actions.
“Charging her is the easy solution. It’s the easy way out. And it reinforces the idea that justice can only be found in the disastrous carceral system we’ve created,” Rice wrote in a viral tweet on Monday.
“Ask yourself what criminal charges can do to Amy Cooper that hasn’t already been done?” she continued “Has she not faced consequences? She did something absolutely horrible and she lost her job, her dog, her personal business was on the front page of the paper.”
To abolitionists like Rice, Angela Davis and Derecka Purnell, a human rights lawyer who recently wrote about her journey toward police abolition in The Atlantic, there is no police reform possible when the very foundations of policing were to suppress and oppress enslaved people, as well as immigrants and labor organizers. But more importantly, focusing on punitive measures takes billions of dollars of resources—time, energy, manpower and funding—from tackling the root causes of crime, like poverty or a lack of safe and affordable housing (Christian Cooper tread a bit of this ground when he questioned the efficacy of legal punishment in deterring people like Amy Cooper from committing similar acts).
But at various other points in the spectrum are people who question the viability of abolition and are uncomfortable with those who have social, political, and legal power (cops and Karens) continuing to abuse those with marginalized identities without appropriate levels of punishment. Then, there are many more who are still contemplating what is possible and what is probable in a country where, for centuries, racial caste has defined birth, death, and everything in between.
To many who are navigating what they want, what they need, and what they expect from American policing, Amy Cooper is less of a person than she is a litmus test: How far are you willing to go, and how much is worth releasing, to build the world you want?