Martin Flores, back at his alma mater on Saturday for a University of California at Berkeley football game, walked up to a kiosk to buy four hot dogs for himself and his kids.
But as he watched a campus police officer take the food vendor’s wallet and remove $60 in cash, Flores whipped out his phone and hit “record.”
“That’s not right, man,” Flores, 44, can be heard saying in the video. “That’s not right.”
University officials said the officer was following instructions to crack down on illegal vending at campus event venues. They said that as the school took on Weber State, the officer approached the hot dog kiosk to cite its operator for vending without a license.
Flores said that as the vendor sifted through his wallet for an ID, the officer grabbed the wallet from his hands. In Flores’s video, the vendor looks shaken and confused as the officer pulls bills out of the wallet and folds them into his hands.
“You’re gonna take his hard-earned money?” Flores asked the officer, clearly exasperated. “People can drink on campus at football games and no tickets, but a hard-working man selling hot dogs earning a living gets his money taken away and a ticket.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, Flores said he found the officer’s aggression “excessive and unnecessary.” Moreover, he felt the officer was singling out one particular vendor — an immigrant and Latino — all while seemingly unfazed by people illegally drinking on campus grounds or jaywalking.
In a statement released Monday, Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said campus officers had been instructed to monitor illegal vending, an action motivated by public health concerns, the interests of small businesses and even human trafficking. Biddy wrote that it is typical for officers to collect suspected illegal funds so they can be entered into evidence, though the statement did not comment on this particular case.
The money seized was booked into evidence. Biddy’s statement said campus police detained three other individuals for vending without a license near Saturday’s football game. Each was released with a warning.
Biddy asked the university police department to open an investigation and the officer is still in his position, he wrote.
“I assure you that the well-being of our community members, including those from our marginalized communities of color, is most important to us, and that we are deeply committed to building a climate of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, even as we enforce laws and policy,” the statement read.
Footage from Flores’s video includes the officer saying the vendor didn’t have a permit and that “this is law and order in action.”
“I just thought that it was selective enforcement,” Flores told the Post. “Selective enforcement on an immigrant, on a hard-working street vendor trying to make a living.”
In a segment of the video, Flores pans to the vendor and talks with him in Spanish.
“My name is Juan,” the man says. “They gave me a ticket because they said I couldn’t sell here.”
Flores lives in Los Angeles and describes himself as a gang expert witness.
Berkeley’s campus newspaper, the Daily Californian, identified the officer but university officials have not released the name or confirmed it.
A petition to remove the officer was circulated on Saturday by a Berkeley student and has since garnered more than 25,000 signatures. The petition alleges the officer has repeatedly targeted minorities on campus.
Flores originally had no way of contacting the vendor after he left the football game. But as his footage went viral, Flores hoped someone would recognize the vendor and put the two back in touch.
Over the weekend, as Flores was in communication with the Spanish news company Telemundo, he learned that Telemundo had located the vendor and arranged for an interview for both of them at the vendor’s home.
By early Tuesday morning, a GoFundMe account set up by Flores had raised more than $51,000 to cover legal and personal losses for the vendor. The fund’s original goal was to raise $10,000 — enough to buy the vendor a push cart and “put some change in his pocket,” Flores said. Now Flores thinks the money may be enough to fulfill the vendor’s long-term dream of owning a food truck.
Flores said the GoFundMe will likely remain open for two more weeks, at which point he plans to use a chunk of the money to hold an event supporting street vendors and connecting them with community resources.
Flores said he would personally make sure that the vendor got his proper permits, and that a future food truck was set up legitimately.
“Whatever is necessary for somebody like Juan to function,” he said.
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