It’s not easy to make a living. Regardless of whether you’re the CEO of a major corporation or a hot dog vendor, you have to work hard for your money. That’s why the internet was outraged by a video of a UC Berkeley cop seizing a hot dog vendor’s earnings.
Alumnus Martin Flores captured the now viral video on Saturday afternoon. It shows a confused hot dog vendor having his day’s earnings forcibly taken from his wallet. This happened when the officer discovered he didn’t have a permit to work in the area. UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy released a statement on Monday saying that vendors were typically given warnings before such measures were taken against them, but for some reason the officer had decided to single out this man.
“We have instructed our officers to monitor illegal vending outside our event venues. This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses, and even human trafficking. In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.” Flores had been buying hot dogs from the man before the officer came over to question him. The vendor reportedly looked in his wallet for the necessary documentation, but when he couldn’t find it, the officer immediately seized his wallet from him. “That’s when I thought something was not right,” Flores revealed. Realizing that all was not right in this interaction between the vendor and the officer, Flores took out his phone and began to film what was happening. When he saw the officer begin to take the vendor’s money, Flores intervened. “That’s not right,” he said, before asking the officer why he was taking the vendor’s “hard-earned money.” “Yeah, well he doesn’t have a permit. He doesn’t have a permit,” the officer said. “Yep, this is law and order in action… Thank you for your support.” $60 was seized from the vendor. However, what made the officer’s actions so shocking was that three other vendors outside the venue had been given warnings for operating without permits that same day, but this man was the only one given a citation. Not only that, but many people were illegally drinking around the campus and seeing no punishment whatsoever. In an interview on Monday, Flores said that whilst he understood that the vendor needed reprimanded for operating a hot dog stand without a permit, he should not have had his earnings selectively taken away from him like that.
“If he’s really about law and order there’s really so many other things he could’ve stopped,” Flores said. “I totally recognize that people have to have permits. But this wasn’t about that. This was about identifying one vendor. If you want law and order, be law and order across the board. That this happened on a campus where I was a student, where it’s supposed to be known as a liberal campus, a socially conscious campus and that it was actually a campus police officer doing this? I was bothered. It broke my 10-year-old daughter’s heart. She wanted to give [the vendor] a hug.”
The hot dog vendor, Beto Matias, has spoken out about the incident, saying that he was simply trying to be the breadwinner for his family. “I was not doing anything wrong, neither stealing nor anything,” he said. “I was just working to support my family.” There is now a petition to have the officer in question fired, which has over 11,000 signatures. To help the vendor, Flores decided to set up a GoFundMe. He had started out with the aim of raising $10,000, but it has already raised more than $70,000. The excess money will be used to help other vendors who have been humiliated in the same way. UC Berkeley has issued a statement saying that they are “committed to building a climate of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, even as we enforce laws and policies.”
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