A University of California police officer was filmed taking money from the wallet of a Berkeley hot dog vendor, as he was citing the man for illegal vending. The video, posted on Facebook Sept. 9, has generated more than 10 million views and an outpouring of support, donations, and questions about the officer's actions.
Thanks to some quick thinking and generosity, Martin Flores, the man who filmed the incident, also set up a GoFundMe account, "OfficialJustice4Juan&StreetVendors" which surpassed its $10,000 goal within hours.
As Flores was taking his family to grab hot dogs after a Cal Bears game, he saw the officers citing the man now known as Juan, pulled out his phone, and started filming. Flores began questioning the officer about why he took the man's money.
"You're going to take his hard earned money," rebuked Flores.
"Yup," the officer responds.
"That's not right, man," Flores said to the officer. "People can drink on campus, during football games with no tickets, but a hard working man selling hot dogs, earning a living gets his money taken away — and a ticket — wow!"
"He doesn't have a permit," the officer replied. "Yup, this is law and order in action."
However, it's unclear if actually taking a civilian's money is a standard protocol for police officers when citing food vendors. The East Bay Times reported that UCPD is, "investigating this weekend’s citation and apparent confiscation of money earned by a hot dog vendor on the University of California campus after a Golden Bears football game."
By law, mobile food facilities must obtain a permit from the Alameda County Environmental Health website, but it's unclear what agency actually enforces those permits on a day-to-day basis. Still, if Juan, or any other hot dog vendor in the city wanted to operate, there's at least a $500 fee associated, according to Alameda County's Environmental Health website.
This is just one instance in a larger battle street vendors face, and thankfully people like Flores exist, to help people like Juan, the Berkeley hot dog vendor, rebuild their lives after tragedy strikes.
In just one day, Flores' GoFundMe account received more than $30,000 in donations — and has already notified Juan. It would be cool to see that money go to help a few street vendors go legit, so everyone can enjoy delicious street food without fear of prosecution.