Ten days ago, an Argentine man flipped over 24-year-old Benjamín Ramírez’s cart in Los Angeles. The man demanded that the elotero move his cart off the sidewalk, but Ramírez told him there was plenty of room for him to walk. Angered, the man walked up to the cart and threw it to the ground, causing damage to his equipment and rendering the food unusable. Ramírez recorded the entire interaction, but it wasn’t until Ramírez’s mother, Imelda, posted the video that went viral.
According to LAist, police arrived on the scene on July 17 and didn’t arrest anyone. “The matter is an ongoing vandalism investigation,” LAPD officer Liliana Preciado told the publication. As the case plays out, Ramírez’s community has rallied behind him. Several GoFundMe campaigns have emerged, including one posted by Imelda. (Donate here.) And today, organizers and supporters are heading back out to the scene of the incident to drive a message: street vendors are welcome and an important part of the city’s fabric. They’ll also call on Mitch O’Farrell, the councilmember of that area, to back the legalization of street vending.
On Romaine and Vine in Hollywood, seven organizations – Unión del Barrio, Leticial Aguilar Jaguelli Foundation for the Poor, March and Rally Los Angeles, Defend Movement, California for Progress, La Raza Unida, and the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign – are hosting Rally to Support Benjamín Ramírez and Street Vendor Legalization.
The Facebook event page shows that more than 1,000 plan to attend, with an additional 5,000 interested. While it’s not often an accurate indicator of actual crowd attendance, it’s clear Ramírez’s video resonated with many. “The current political and economic climate has really pushed our community against a wall,” Ernesto Ayala, an organizer with La Raza Unida, tells Remezcla. “The growing and dangerous attacks by the right wing and the capitalist restructuring of urban areas that are pushing out Raza and other working-class communities from their historic neighborhoods was epitomized in this attack. We relate to Benjamín in one way or [another]. He symbolizes our community.”
With the rally, organizers also intend to put pressure on the city to act on street vending now. At the start of the year, the LA City Council voted to draft a law legalizing street vending. But in the absence of an immediate solution, the city decriminalized street vending, so that vendors – many of whom are undocumented and/or Latino – didn’t have to worry about convictions at a time when the US government is focusing on the deportation of larger number of undocumented immigrants. But the removal of the misdemeanor charge only applies to sidewalk vending in some parts of the city.
That’s why today’s event will call on O’Farrell – who represents the 13th District and is the Chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Parks, and River – to take action.
“Mitch O’Farrell, in the past, has voiced his support for the legalization of vending, but there’s also a very pragmatic thing he can do now to show that support,”Carla de Paz, director of Community Organizing a the East LA Community Corporation (which is part of the The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign), told Remezcla in a phone interview. “He’s the chair of the parks committee within City Hall, and vending in parks has not been decriminalized. You can still get charged with a misdemeanor. That’s an example of something he can do as a chair of the parks committee immediately. We’re hoping that city council, including Mitch O’Farrell, can use this moment and use the urgency that this attack has brought upon our city to move forward.”
Rally to Support Benjamín Ramírez and Street Vendor Legalization takes place today on Vine and Romaine in Hollywood at 5 p.m. PT. Learn more information here.