Solidarity and Justice for all.
This past Saturday, a hot dog vendor was serving folks at a UC Berkeley game when things got strange.
A UC police officer passing students and alumni drinking alcohol on campus (which is technically illegal) approached the vendor, Juan, and wrote him a ticket for selling food without a license. What happened next is what many people from both the left and the right see as crossing the line.
Martin Flores – a Cal alumni who was buying hot dogs for his family – sensed that something wasn’t quite right when the officer asked for Juan’s wallet, so he started recording with his phone. Officer S. Aranas inspected Juan’s wallet before taking his cash, much to the surprise of the vendor. Flores, who speaks both English and Spanish, piped up:
“That’s not right. People can drink on campus at football games and (get) no tickets, but a hard working man selling hot dogs earning a living gets his money taken away and a ticket? Law and order for the few, that ain’t right, man.”
The confiscation of money is called ‘civil forfeiture’ which the ACLU says has been widely misused. One recent study shows that implicit bias is a big issue in law enforcement. (If you’re curious about implicit biases, a Harvard initiative called Project Implicit made this test to try to better illustrate the idea.)
These are a couple of many reasons the video was upsetting to see. It wasn’t necessarily the citation Flores (and those who saw the video) took issue with, it was the targeting of a minority trying to earn a living while other illegal, more dangerous activities were occurring nearby.
He’s right – no matter one’s background or political views, they deserve equal opportunity and justice, and that’s not what happened that day.
But, thanks to Flores’ video, a cascade of support has been pouring in from all over the country. By Monday the video had more than 11 million views.
There’s a petition calling for the officer (who has a history of abuse of power) to be removed from duty as well as a GoFundMe with a goal of $10,000 to cover Juan’s legal expenses and personal losses. It’s already exceeded $56,000. Flores says this is enough to host an event to connect vendors with community resources and bring to fruition Juan’s life dream of owning his own food truck.
If you see something, say something. Or at least hit record.