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Mayor tackles protester

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A man took a coconut cream pie from a grocery bag, grabbed Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson from behind and smacked him in the face with it at a charity event, leading the former NBA star to start swinging and then tackle the man who was left battered and facing assault charges.

The pie wielder and local activist, Sean Thompson, 32, said Thursday that the mayor overreacted, sending him to the hospital for nine stitches before he went to jail. He said he was angry Johnson devoted so much political energy to an arena for the city's basketball team and not to other needs such as education and homelessness.

The mayor was greeting people eating at an outdoor charity dinner Wednesday night at Sacramento Charter High School when Thompson pulled Johnson back and shoved the pie in his face, said Johnson's chief of staff, Crystal Strait.

"There was no throwing of the pie," said Erika Bjork, who works for a professional soccer team in Sacramento and saw the encounter up close. "This was a direct assault. It just happened that he had a pie in his hand."

Bjork, whose boss is a major donor to Johnson, said the mayor looked shocked and swung at Thompson multiple times, but she didn't see him land any punches.

Thompson had red and blue bruises around his right eye when he spoke to The Associated Press in jail.

"When I threw the pie at him, right at that moment, I shouted at him. I said, 'You need to better represent me,'" Thompson said.

He said the mayor turned and hit him at least twice "and pretty hard." Thompson said he covered his face and started to move away but was quickly surrounded by people and kept taking hits. He couldn't tell who delivered the blows.

Thompson said he expected to be tackled by police but was caught off guard when the punches came from the mayor. He said he has no regrets but was surprised to be facing a felony, assaulting a public official.

He was held on $100,000 bail and was expected to be formally charged today.