Crime - Sacto 911

Pie-wielding activist released from Sacramento jail

Jailhouse interview with man who threw pie at Mayor Kevin Johnson

Sean Thompson, 32, explains why he threw a pie at Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
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Sean Thompson, 32, explains why he threw a pie at Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The activist arrested for slamming a coconut cream pie in Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s face was released on bail late Friday and celebrated his freedom over pizza pie and beer.

Sean Thompson, 32, received a surprise bail-out of county jail from Marilyn Young, owner of Knotty Girls Bail Bonds.

“I was so grateful I was almost in tears,” Thompson said.

Young and Thompson had not met before his release, but Young said she knew as soon as she heard about Thompson’s whipped cream activism that she wanted to help.

“I can’t really say I’m pro-people throwing pie, but I’m pro-people standing up for what they believe in,’ she said. “I understand people have a better chance fighting their case if they are out.”

Thompson was being held on $100,000 bail for a felony charge of assaulting a public official and a misdemeanor charge of battery on school property. He will return to court Tuesday and ask for bail to be lowered, said his attorney Claire White.

The charges stem from a Wednesday night incident where Thompson approached Johnson from behind at a charity dinner outside Sacramento Charter High School and smashed a pie in his face.

Johnson responded to the surprise attack by hitting Thompson at least once in the face, according to witnesses and photos provided to The Sacramento Bee. Thompson was briefly hospitalized before he was taken to jail. He said in a jailhouse interview on Thursday that he had nine stitches around his left eye.

Johnson’s chief of staff, Crystal Strait, said after the incident, “Let me be clear, the mayor was assaulted.”

Thompson, a former Occupy protester who also served two years in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Casa Roble High School in Orangevale, said his action was a protest to hold the mayor and other politicians accountable for what he sees as a failure to address issues like homelessness.

“My message is that the City Council and the mayor and other members of local government have a duty to serve its citizens, even the poor and even the uneducated, and I feel like they have been doing a substandard job,” he said.

Thompson said he was unaware of the national attention his action earned because he did not have access to news in jail, but it makes him think the stunt paid off.

“Now people are listening,” he said. “I had to do something, I hate to say to get attention, but getting attention for a message that has long been ignored.”

Thompson is under a protective order that prohibits him from coming within 100 feet of Johnson, he said.

Thompson said he has no plans to confront the mayor again and doesn’t intend to break the order.

It “isn’t a concern. ... I don’t intend to further the situation,” he said.

But Thompson said he felt “obligated” to attend the upcoming council meeting Tuesday night.

“This is big news right now,” he said. “I want to go and make a statement.”

The protective order came with a handwritten modification on it allowing Thompson to attend city meetings where the mayor was present, dropping the restriction to 20 feet in those instances, White said. The lesser distance would allow Thompson to approach the podium to speak at council meetings.

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.

Thompson said he was scared in the moments leading up to the pie toss, but plans on further protests in the future.

“I was afraid,” he said. “I just knew this was something that was going to be the first in many steps to come to spread the message and the awareness that our representatives should do better. ... I intend to continue this. I am not going to give the details of how so, but I do intend to continue my activism.”

But on Friday night, Thompson took a break from civil disobedience for a cold brew and a hot slice.

He and Young went from the jail straight to Pieces Pizza on 21st Street. Thompson said staff there gave him his pizza for free after recognizing him, and a patron purchased his beer.

“We expressed our appreciation of his civic spirit and engagement in the crustier issues of life,” said Pieces Pizza day manager Nick Roberts-Warren.

Thompson called it “a really glamorous night. ... I was just on top of the world.”

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

Philippe Ngabonziza’s photos of the incident, in sequence:

PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA Special to The Sacramento Bee
 
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