More than $70,000 has been raised for a Berkeley hot dog vendor after a video went viral showing a police officer taking cash out of the vendor’s wallet and writing him a ticket.
The video was posted on Facebook Saturday evening by Martin Flores, who has also since started a GoFundMe account for the man he identified as Juan.
According to Berkeleyside, Flores was trying to buy a hot dog from Juan when University of California Berkeley Officer Sean Aranas started citing Juan for vending without a license. His Facebook video had been viewed more than 11.5 million times before the post apparently was deleted.
In the video, Flores continuously says, “That’s not right,” and Aranas responds at first by saying, “That’s how it works.” A few seconds later, Aranas says, “We’ll take it to the judge, and the judge can decide whether it’s right” and “This is law and order in action.”
Observers began to heckle Flores, who told the crowd, “I’m working for you.”
Scott Biddy, vice chancellor of Berkeley, released a statement on Monday saying the school is reviewing the incident, and he has instructed the University of California Police Department to open a complaint investigation. He then provided context for the situation, saying police were targeting street vendors who don’t have permits:
“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 addition, while I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular case, our practice is to issue warnings before giving a citation. In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
Biddy also said the $60 taken out of the vendor’s wallet was the only money taken by the officer, which was “seized as evidence of the suspected proceeds of the violation and booked into evidence.”
According to online records, the vendor was cited for violating the Berkeley Municipal Code for vending without a license at 5:32pm PT just outside California Memorial Stadium during a Cal-Weber State football game. Juan was the only person cited for that alleged violation on Saturday.
As of Wednesday morning, Flores’ GoFundMe account for Juan has been backed by over 4,500 donors, has made $70,000, and continues to rise every day.
“The funds raised will be utilized to cover legal and personal loses,” Flores wrote on the page. “In addition, funds in excess are to cover other vendors who have been robbed of their hard-earned living through citations and removal of their carts … We will ensure that Juan has his personal, legal and professional matters addressed. Juan is a symbol of the injustice that takes place to street vendors.”
Flores also told the Huffington Post he hopes Juan can buy a food truck with the money raised and is organizing an event in Los Angeles to create more advocacy for street vendors.
Another online petition was created to force the police department to remove Aranas from his job, accusing him of “continuously target[ing] minorities in the community.” As of this writing, nearly 13,000 had signed it.
“The only beautiful thing here is there is a lot of community support,” Flores told the Daily Californian. “Juan will … benefit from those funds … whether it’s getting a car, getting a permit, whatever is the applicable thing to address the issue.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with current GoFundMe numbers and a statement from Berkeley.