Despite all the care, love, and hard work that street vendors put into their craft, some police officers and pedestrians vilify and unfairly target them. After this Saturday’s Cal-Weber State game, UC Berkeley alumnus Martin Flores recorded an infuriating encounter between a UCPD officer and a hot dog vendor, identified only as Juan. Flores headed to Piedmont Avenue and Bancroft Way to buy three hot dogs from the cart, which is when Officer Sean Aranas interrupted the transaction to cite Juan. Aranas also confiscated money from the vendor’s wallet. Flores, who recorded the entire incident, questioned why Aranas had to take the street vendor’s hard-earned money.
“That’s how it works,” Aranas is heard saying in the video, as Juan asks Flores to ask the cop why he took his money. “We’ll take it to the judge, and the judge can decide whether or not it’s right.”
Flores, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and writer, continued sticking up for Juan, telling Aranas and his partner that they’re being unfair. Flores even told the cops that not too far away people were breaking the law by drinking on campus, but that they had chosen to go after someone trying to make an honest living. UCPD took a total of $60, according to Berkeleyside. Since Flores posted the viral video online, many have questioned whether the officers overstepped his bounds by grabbing the money from the wallet, without knowing whether all of it stemmed from sales. UC Berkeley police told KTVU-TV that it does have the right to confiscate money, which in this case it booked as evidence.
“We are aware of the incident,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told KTVU. “The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus. UCPD is looking into the matter.”
As the case unfolds, plenty on the internet are making it clear they stand with Juan. Flores began a GoFundMe page to help Juan with legal fees, and in just a few days, it has garnered more than $30,000. And UC Berkeley student Vicky Zamarripa started a petition to get Aranas removed from his post. She explains that he has done more than just target a street vendor, alleging that he’s also beaten and harassed students of color. “It also appears that Officer Aranas has continuously targeted minorities in the community,” she alleges. “… We believe that our officers should focus on protecting our students and our community. And most importantly, we believe our officers should be respectful towards students and community members (and not single out people of color). Nearly 16,000 have signed the petition.