Sean Thompson, a former Occupy protester who had been arrested multiple times in recent years, walked into a charity dinner outside Sacramento Charter High School in Oak Park on Wednesday carrying a brown paper bag. He found his target – Mayor Kevin Johnson – approached him from behind and revealed his alleged weapon: a coconut cream pie.
Thompson then allegedly grabbed Johnson by the arm and struck the mayor in the face with the pie, knocking the glasses from Johnson’s face, according to a witness. Johnson, standing a few feet from his wife, paused for a second and then took Thompson to the ground. During a brief melee, the mayor hit Thompson at least once, sending the 32-year-old man to a hospital before Thompson was booked into jail.
“I don’t think that was an appropriate response to a pie to the face,” Thompson said during a jailhouse interview Thursday, his face bruised.
Thompson was arrested on a felony charge of assaulting a public official and a misdemeanor charge of battery on school property. In a booking photo released by the Sacramento Police Department, Thompson appeared to have two sets of stitches around his bruised left eye.
The bizarre incident on the campus of Johnson’s alma mater sparked widespread debate on social media over whether the mayor acted appropriately. Some argued that Johnson overreacted to a form of political theater used against public figures around the world, while others applauded the mayor for defending himself and his family in swift fashion.
Johnson’s chief of staff, Crystal Strait, said, “Let me be clear, the mayor was assaulted.” The Police Department said it was unlikely Johnson would face charges.
Thompson said he told Johnson in the second before he threw the pie that the mayor “has to do better to represent the people.” He argued Johnson has spent too much time over the past eight years focused on a new downtown sports arena and strengthening the powers of the mayor’s office.
“He’s had a lot of opportunities to help a lot of people and he’s ignored every one of them,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that he has been an activist for four years, has been arrested multiple times and had always remained peaceful. But he said he felt like he hasn’t accomplished much.
Asked why he resorted to physical confrontation, Thompson replied: “Pie throwing was the least violent action I could take.” And he said he would do it again if given the chance.