LA’s Street Vendor Community Rallies in Support of Benjamín Ramírez

Street Vendors at rally in Los Angeles (Photo by Maria Flores @merry_flowers. Used with permission.)

The street vendor community and its allies gathered on Thursday night in Los Angeles to support Benjamín Ramírez, demanding that the City Council legalize street vending.

After a video went viral showing an Argentinian man attacking Ramírez by knocking over his elote cart, activists and community leaders worked together to fundraise and rally on behalf of the Ramírez family.

“Our community is supportive of the street vendors, and this is a massive movement,” Maria Flores, a community organizer for Unión del Barrio, told Latino Rebels from the Thursday rally.

The incident with Ramírez was another example of the harassment that street vendors go through every day in L.A. Last year, Latino Rebels Radio focused on this issue.

According to the Economic Roundtable Organization, there are approximately 50,000 street vendors in L.A.

Currently, there is no city permit that allows street vendors to work legally. This has allowed people (and sometimes police officers) to harass and criminalize street vendors, leading to illegal confiscation and destruction of their carts.

“They have given me tickets and handcuffed me for selling my product in Hollywood. It is not okay that they are treating us like delinquents. We are just working,” Angelica Maria Herrera, a street vendor said during the rally.

The L.A Street Vendor Campaign is a coalition of different organizations calling for street vending legalization. During the rally, organizers handed out information on how to get involved and move forward.

“Take out your phones now and look for your city councilmember. Call him or her and tell them you want street vending to be legal,” organizer Abraham Zavala said at the rally.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to decriminalize street vending and to start developing a program that protects vendors. For those vendors who have fines and have not paid them yet, they will not face criminal charges.

Permits, however, have yet to be issued, leaving vendors like Ramírez unprotected and allowing people like Carlos Hakas, the man who tipped over Ramírez’s cart, to verbally abuse and attack them.

During the rally, Ramirez thanked supporters.

“I want to thank all Latinos and everyone who are supporting me and getting together to get this permit. That’s we all want,” Ramírez said in Spanish.

Hundreds of people showed up at the rally wearing black t-shirts that said “Legalize Street Vending” and holding sign that read “Justice for Benjamin”, “Mess with the elotero, you get the community” and “Elotero Lives Matter.”

Organizers and activists supporting street vendors. (Photo by Unión del Barrio/Used with permission.)

After multiple speeches by organizers and activists, people marched through Vine Street, where others joined. There were different street vendors selling their food at the rally.

“We want to work, to pay our rent, buy food for our kids, because this is a decent job,” one street vendor said.

As of now, there is no new information about the man who attacked Ramirez. There have been different GoFundMe pages to support Ramírez so he can recoup his losses. His mother created one where you can donate.

Here is another way you can get involved:

The Street Vendors are asking for your help!! Can you take a few minutes of your day to Take Action Now? We want as many people as possible to call Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s to let him know that we need him to support the legalization of street vending! Please call his office now and you can use the following script if you’d like!! (213) 207-3015. Thank you!!em?

Hello my name is _____________________________, I am a member of the community and I support my local street vendors and the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign. What happened to Benjamin Ramirez is not an isolated incident. Vendors across the city are harassed and criminalized daily. Situations likes these can be avoided if councilmembers finalize and adopt a fair vending permit program that prioritizes the needs of vendors.
We are asking that you commit to taking the following steps to support our vendors:
1. Support a criminal investigation into Benjamin Ramirez’s attack.
2. Commit to ending the use of violence, threats, and harassment by the LAPD on vendors.
3. Finalize and adopt a vending permit program for sidewalk vending.
4. Support a full decriminalization of vending that includes city parks not just the sidewalk.
5. Commit to supporting a vending permit program for the parks.

Our current law sends the message that workers who vend to provide for their family after being shut out of the formal economy are criminals. When laws delegitimize and dehumanize, people are emboldened to do the same. Let’s take action together and defend and uplift all members our community.”

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María Camila Montañez is a journalism student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Spanish-language program. She is originally from Colombia and tweets from @mariacmontanez.

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