An incident between a University of California Berkeley police officer and a local hot dog vendor has quickly gone viral after video shows the officer writing a ticket and sifting through the vendor’s wallet to take his money.
The video was posted by a man named Martin Flores on Facebook on Saturday evening as he was trying to buy a hot dog from the man he identified as Juan.
According to Berkeleyside, Flores began filming after 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.”
UC Berkeley police told KTVU that it was targeting unregulated street vendors who don’t have a permit to sell food. Police also told the TV station that the vendor’s money was booked as evidence.
“We are aware of the incident,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told Berkeleyside on Sunday evening. “The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus. UCPD is looking into the matter.”
A UC Berkeley Police spokesperson on Monday morning told the Daily Dot that they are also “aware of the incident” and said the police department would have more to say later in the day, which Mogulof confirmed to the Daily Dot.
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.
In response, Flores started a GoFundMe account for Juan, and at the time of this writing, 2,378 donors have raised more than $34,000.
“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.”
Another online petition was created to force the police department to remove Aranas from his job, accusing him of “continuously target 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.”
Update 9:15am CT, Sept. 12: Scott Biddy, vice chancellor of Berkeley, released a statement saying that the school cares about the well-being of those from “marginalized communities of color,” it 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:
“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.”
In a Q&A portion of the statement, the school said that $60 was taken from the vendor by the officer, which was “seized as evidence of the suspected proceeds of the violation and booked into evidence.”
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