A hot dog vendor at a UC Berkeley campus received quite a shock over the weekend when a campus officer openly and brazenly took cash directly from his wallet.
UC alum Martin Floris and his kids stopped to buy some food from a hot dog vendor after a Saturday football game when he noticed a campus officer approach the cart and question the vendor about his permit. The man – identified as Juan – did not have a permit. The officer allegedly asked Juan to produce his ID, then snatched the wallet and began rifling through it. That’s when Floris says he knew something was amiss.
‘That’s when I thought something was not right.”
He pulled out his phone and started recording and can be heard on video saying “That’s not right,” as officer Sean Aranas begins pulling money straight from the shocked vendor’s wallet.
Despite Juan’s and Floris’ objections, Aranas folds the money, dismissing the frustrated onlookers.
‘Yeah, well he doesn’t have a permit. He doesn’t have a permit. Yep, this is law and order in action…Thank you for your support.’
Floris posted the video to Twitter (language warning).
UC Berkeley Police 👮🏼 y'all some punk ass bitches a ticket is understandable but to take his money away fuck the police pic.twitter.com/B8j2UcvREG
— Big Fla𝕮o (@Moreno) September 10, 2017
The UCB officer seized $60 from Juan’s wallet as “evidence”, and issued a citation for operating without a permit.
Floris released the video and outrage spread quickly. An online petition demanding Aranas be fired has over 35,000 signatures and Flores himself set up a GoFundMe account for Juan. So far donations have reached over $50,000.
A UCB spokesperson has said Aranas was assigned to permit enforcement that day and they would investigate the matter further.
‘The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus. UCPD is looking into the matter.”
Aranas has allegedly had problems in the past, although coming from a UC Berkeley source it’s hard to judge if they’re real or perceived. Remember, this is the same place that is providing counseling for students because a blogger is coming to talk words out of his mouth.
Regardless, Aranas’ actions are rightly considered outrageous and deserve to be discussed at the very least.
Juan may indeed have been operating without the required permit, and Aranas might even have been within his legal right to seize funds but the entire incident brings up two issues:
Are police here to “serve and protect” or humiliate and belittle? Who exactly was Aranas serving by being so rude and stealing a man’s money right from his wallet? Is he protecting the willing consumers engaging in a voluntary transaction? Or is he protecting the pockets of the city of Berkeley, which didn’t get their piece of Juan’s pie…or hot dogs, so to speak?
And that brings us the larger and more important issue – why on earth do feel it necessary to require a piece of paper from the government that tells us we’re allowed to do what we already do? You may be saying right now, “Well, what about health violations? The public has to know this transaction isn’t dangerous to their health!”. My response to that is that if Juan’s hot dogs are making people sick, he’ll stop making money. It doesn’t pay to kill your customers. And if people feel they are willing to take the health risk of buying food from a street vendor rather than a “permitted” establishment, that is their choice and they should have the freedom to make that choice.
This isn’t about keeping the public safe from the tyranny of germs. This is about control. When we give our governments control over whether or not we can sell hot dogs to people, we are also giving them the control over our wallets as officer Aranas so shockingly demonstrated.
As a California resident myself, I’m quite sure Aranas was within his legal rights and just doing his job. This state has no respect for ingenuity, self-determination or the small-businessman. It wouldn’t be surprising to discover Aranas keeps his job and all his benefits.
People should be outraged by this video, but we shouldn’t be making it about this one man so much as it should be about a faceless bureaucracy that has the power to humiliate and rob a peaceful citizen just trying to make an honest living. It’s about making it nearly impossible to make that honest living, and calling it “law and order”.