Critics are questioning a UC Berkeley campus cop's decision to focus crime fighting efforts on a hot dog vendor after video emerged of him seizing money from the man's wallet.
Claiming the hot dog seller was operating without a permit, the officer is heard in video defending the act as "law and order in action."
A witness, however, is claiming the vendor is the victim of "selective enforcement" and has raised more than $50,000 in support of his cause.
Martin Flores was with his children at his alma mater's football game Saturday when he watched the incident unfold.
Flores told the Los Angeles Times that the officer, later identified as Sean Aranas, asked for the vendor’s ID and as the man fumbled through his wallet, the officer took it out of the vendor’s hand.
"That’s when I thought something was not right," said Flores, who then decided to record what he saw.
In the video, Flores tells Aranas, "That's not right," and demands to know why the officers' energies are being directed toward a "hard-working man" rather than toward public drinking during the football game.
"Yeah, well he doesn’t have a permit. He doesn’t have a permit,” the officer said. “Yep, this is law and order in action... Thank you for your support."
While Flores was far from supportive of the officer's conduct, officials at UC Berkeley said the officer had done nothing wrong.
“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,” UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said in a statement. “In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
Biddy, nonetheless, ordered the police department to open a complaint investigation into the officer’s procedural and management issues related to the incident. The city has also said the officer, indeed, took $60 from the vendor.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign organized by Flores is riding a wave of public interest in the video.
Flores originally set a goal of $10,000 to help support the vendor, who Flores said is named Juan. As views of his video exceeded 11 million, the GoFundMe campaign pushed past $50,000 in donations as of Tuesday morning.
"I just want to be clear that NO funds will go to me. However, we will ensure that Juan has his personal, legal and professional matters addressed," Flores wrote.
Flores agrees that vendors should have permits, but says the incident is an example of uneven enforcement of the law.
"Juan is a symbol of the injustice that takes place to street vendors. Therefore a collective effort to support street vendors will also benefit," Flores wrote.