On pie and protest

By now just about everyone in this town has heard of the Great Pie Incident of 2016, in which protester Sean Thompson assaulted Mayor Kevin Johnson with a coconut cream pie to the face (and if you haven’t heard, read up here).

And, by now, everyone seems to have a strong opinion about Johnson’s reaction: returning fire with punches, a move that left Thompson bloodied and with stitches.

While I appreciate Thompson’s intent to raise awareness about Sacramento’s homeless problem, the activist’s pie caper wasn’t the smartest move. Actually, it was pretty stupid. But Johnson’s decision to punch Thompson more than once was also stupid.

(And, no, I don’t care if there’s a long history of protestors throwing things—pies, shoes, etc. at public figures—it’s not just disrespectful, it’s basically ineffective, too.)

One reactionary punch? Sure, I’ll give you that. The mayor is human, after all.

Beyond that, however, no—especially since the mayor was flanked by bodyguards who should have been allowed to do their job.

But let’s put aside the drama for a moment because, ultimately, this isn’t about Kevin Johnson or Sean Thompson. Rather it’s about what this incident reveals about us as a society.

Over the last week I’ve heard a common sentiment echoed repeatedly: Hit me with a pie and you best expect a beating.

Such “come at me, bro” bravado would be laughable if it weren’t so disappointing and disturbing. There’s a difference between self-defense and machismo-fueled violence and this isn’t an action movie; it’s real life with consequences.