“I wasn’t stealing or drinking. I was just working to sustain my family,” said the street vendor, who has asked to be identified only as “Beto”
A video showing University of California police ticketing an unlicensed street vendor and seizing money from his wallet at UC Berkeley went viral on social media this weekend, drawing criticism from those who claim the officer went too far by confiscating the man’s money.
Now, a GoFundMe to support the street vendor has collected more than $54,000, as of Tuesday morning. A petition to fire the police officer who issued the citation has collected more than 28,000 signatures.
As the video continued to rack up views late into Monday afternoon, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy issued a statement reiterating the school’s commitment to creating a “climate of tolerance, inclusion, and diversity.”
“While I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular case, our practice is to issue warnings before giving a citation,” Biddy said. “In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
UCPD officials said that three other people were warned about vending without a permit, but the vendor in the video was the only person who was given a ticket.
The UC police have been instructed to open a complaint investigation into the incident, Biddy said.The officer who issued the citation will continue working while the investigation plays out, according to UCPD.
The street vendor, who has asked to be identified only as “Beto,” was selling hot dogs near Memorial Stadium, where a large crowd of people assembled for the university’s first home football game of the season.
Martin Flores, who wrote on social media that he had attended the game with his children, captured footage of UC police officer Sean Aranas approaching the vendor and writing him a citation for selling food without a proper permit, a violation of Berkeley’s municipal code. Aranas then went into the man’s wallet and took money from it.
The video was originally posted to Flores’ Facebook, and it was re-posted by other accounts on Twitter. As of Monday morning, one re-post garnered more than 90,000 likes and 82,000 retweets.
“You’re going to take his money? That’s not right,” Flores can be heard saying in the video.
“We’re going to take it to the judge, and the judge can decide if it’s right,”
Aranas said. “This is law and order in action.”
In an interview with NBC Bay Area’s sister station Telemundo, the street vendor said he holds down a regular job in construction. He was selling hot dogs to earn a little extra money, he said.
“People saw I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” he said of the response to the video. “I wasn’t stealing or drinking. I was just working to sustain my family.”
Many social media users opined that the ticket may have been fair, but taking the vendor’s money as “evidence” went too far. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin responded to the video after it was posted on his Facebook page, calling it “outrageous” and vowing to reach out to UC Berkeley officials.