Pie-throwing protester charged with assault

Amy Olson

A man who threw a pie in Senator Carol Flynn’s face last week to protest the rerouting of Highway 55 could face up to a year in jail.
Bob Greenberg, 32, of Minneapolis, was charged with disrupting the legislative process and fifth-degree assault for hitting the Minneapolis senator in the face with a cream pie on March 30 as she left Senate chambers at the state Capitol.
The charges are not likely to be dropped against Greenberg, said his attorney Jack Rice, who added that his client has a long history of working as an activist for political causes.
Greenberg, who also identifies himself as Agent Pecan, is a member of a group called Biotic Baking Brigade. The organization is working to stop the rerouting of Highway 55, contending that the proposed route would desecrate Native American burial grounds.
Greenberg said he approached Flynn as she walked out the door of Senate chambers and gently pushed the lemon coconut cream pie into her face to avoid injuring her.
Flynn said she left chambers and was occupied looking for a constituent who wanted to speak with her when Greenberg approached her near the stairwell.
After Greenberg smeared the pie in her face, Flynn took a step and slipped on the pie’s creamy ingredients; she was not injured in the fall. Flynn then called out to a friend who grabbed Greenberg, whom Flynn said was attempting to flee.
Greenberg, who called the act political speech, said the incident was “clearly a joke” and that he did not intend to hurt or intimidate Flynn.
“I am very grateful that no one was seriously injured,” Greenberg said. “This pieing was politically motivated and was not done maliciously.”
The episode was intended to draw attention to the rerouting bill and resolution that were debated by the Senate Transportation Committee. Greenberg said Flynn abused her power as committee chairwoman to veto both the bill and resolution.
“People have forgotten the big picture,” said a Macalester College senior and member of the Biotic Baking Brigade who identified herself only as Agent Sweet Potato. “This was only a pie.”
But Flynn said Greenberg’s act disrupted the legislative process because she was unable to return to work that afternoon. She added that she is disappointed by the loss of respect for public officials demonstrated by the incident.
“This isn’t the way we do things in Minnesota,” Flynn said.
The incident follows what Greenberg called “a rash of pieings” around the globe, including a March 25 incident where Gov. Jesse Ventura’s bodyguard was hit with a pie intended for the governor.
Greenberg said that the American Civil Liberties Union has stated that the act of nonviolently pushing a pie into someone’s face constitutes an act of political speech. Representatives from the ACLU and its Minnesota affiliate, the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, could not be reached to confirm the statement.
In a separate incident, Greenberg was convicted on a gross misdemeanor charge of obstructing the legal process in Hennepin County. This was in conjunction with activist workings in 1997, Rice said.
If convicted on the charge of disrupting legislative proceedings, Greenberg could be fined $3,000 in addition to the one-year jail sentence. He also faces a misdemeanor charge for fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $700 fine. He will appear in Ramsey County District Court on April 20.