Note to self: Don’t send out an over-the-top note on Facebook urging the mass murder of cops, even if it’s to show that such a viewpoint is ridiculous. Also, pointing out the race of cops who need killing makes it even worse. So don’t do that, either.
Unfortunately, Ebony Dickens didn’t get that memo. And, so, she sent such a message, with dire results — for her, that is. Fortunately, nothing bad for cops, white or black.
Dickens got in a heap of trouble last year when her post — “All Black ppl should rise up and shoot at every white cop in the nation starting NOW” — spread across the Internet faster than a Kardashian booty shot.
She was arrested — twice — and became the face of a coarse and even dangerous cop-hating public.
Except, she says, she never meant it that way and on Friday she stood at a southwest Atlanta church to apologize to cops of all colors.
Of course, everyone finds Jesus when facing jail time. The meanest, scruffiest, most tatted-up crazies end up looking like bespectacled scholars when facing a judge. And Dickens put her humble foot forward when facing the court of public opinion.
“This was supposed to be a conversation only; I would have been devastated if something happened,” she said in a soft voice in front of a bank of TV cameras, her attorney, Gerald Griggs, at her side.
Hovering behind her was Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who dropped a felony charge of making terroristic threats in exchange for her public apology. Looking on were Ken Allen, head of Atlanta’s police union, and Cedric Alexander, DeKalb County’s public safety director, who was president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives in 2014 when national anger stewed over a spate of black civilians killed by cops.
Alexander said he wasn’t called in to be the black counterweight to the white Allen. “I’m representing all police officers,” he said. “This is not a black and white thing.”
But at first blush, that’s how it seems. Very black. And white. Anti-white, to be precise.
“I condone black on white killings,” Dickens wrote. “Hell they condone crimes against us. I’ve thought about shooting every white cop I see in the head until I’m either caught by the police or killed by them. Ha!!!! I think I can pull it off. Might kill at least fifteen tomorrow. I’m plotting now.”
Her post circulated last April as riots raged in Baltimore after a black man, Freddy Gray, died in police custody. The previous year saw the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice, 12, in Cleveland. The year culminated with Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a black man, walking up to a parked police car in New York and killing officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. He wanted to even the score.
D.A. Howard brought up this timeline to show Dickens tossed a digital Molotov cocktail into a fire.
Dickens told me she wasn’t angry when writing the note, she was being ironic.
“It was to sound as preposterous as I meant it,” she said.
She said she posted it at night and when she woke up she saw it had been shared more than 100 times, many to police sites. She said she deactivated her Facebook page, but it didn’t matter.
“By then, it was all over the world,” she said.
Dickens says she was scared by the backlash, but her posts indicate lingering defiance: “Why are people sending police officers to my house about my Facebook status? This is hilarious. Y’all shoot Black men in the back when they walk away or shoot black kids with toy guns but when someone retaliates, y’all report my status.”
It all sank in when the FBI got involved and authorities searched her home and found a loaded gun.
Later, her attorney approached the DA with an offer, she’d apologize. She met with Ken Allen and others in a two-hour private meeting.
Dickens, who works in IT and has a masters in criminal justice, told him, “That’s not me.”
The detective believed her.
“We were able to see the context of the whole conversation,” Allen said. “When you look at the whole thread, there’s some satire and sense of ridiculous around it. It was over the top.”
Hours after her diatribe, Dickens wrote: “Yeah, it sounds as ridiculous as them shooting us for no reason. Which was the ENTIRE point of this post. #irony”
But, Allen added, “You don’t know how someone will take it, you don’t know the mental state of people who see it.”
Think the dangerous nut in New York.
Social media and Internet conversations harden people, Allen said, bringing them together in negative emotional group-think. Allen told Dickens her apology didn’t mean anything unless she went public.
On Friday, she did.
While leaving the church, I asked whether she had any parting thoughts.
“If you don’t mean it that way, don’t write it; there’s no way to take it back,” she said, before adding. “Don’t do stupid stuff, period. On or off social media.”
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Credit: Cobb County Sheriff's Office