BERKELEY, Calif. – The University of California Berkeley Police Department is investigating after videos showing an officer ticketing a hot dog vendor and removing money from his wallet following a Cal football game on Saturday went viral, according to reports.
Martin Flores, a Los Angeles resident and Berkeley alum, filmed and uploaded three cellphone videos of the incident to his Facebook page Saturday evening, writing, “The sadness to observe UC Berkeley Police give a hotdog vendor a ticket and his hard earned money taken away.”
The incident occurred in the 2200 block of Piedmont Avenue just after 5:30 p.m., the East Bay Times reported.
In a GoFundMe account, Flores wrote he was buying hot dogs for his children after the family left the Golden Bears football game when “we were interrupted by UC Berkeley Police officer.”
At that point, Flores took his cellphone out and began recording. He did so because he felt the vendor — identified only as Juan — was being unfairly targeted by police, according to Bay Area-television station KTVU.
During an exchange with the ticketing officer, Flores can be heard in the footage protesting his actions and defending the street vendor, arguing that police were ignoring on-campus drinking.
“That’s not right. … You’re going to take his hard-earned money? People could drink on campus on football games and no ticket, but a hard-working man selling hot dogs, earning a living, gets his money taken away and a ticket?” Flores asked.
“He doesn’t have a permit,” the officer responded. “This is law and order in action.”
A UC Berkeley police official told KTVU that officers can look through someone’s wallet and confiscate money if there is an arrest or citation. In this case, the vendor’s money was seized as evidence, the station reported.
The amount confiscated in the seizure was $60, according to Berkeley news website Berkeleyside.com.
Police confirmed they are investigating the incident, which took place as officers cracked down on street vending violations, according to multiple news outlets.
“We are aware of the incident,” UC Berkeley police Sgt. Nicole Sanchez told the East Bay Times on Sunday. “That officer was tasked with enforcing violations of vending without a permit on campus. We are looking into the incident.”
Juan was the only vendor cited amid the crackdown, the television station reported.
Police detained three additional vendors, but released them, according to Berkeleyside.com. All were given warnings.
Videos Flores posted to his Facebook page have been viewed more than 11 million times and shared by over 160,000 users as of Monday morning.
By 8:40 a.m., the videos had apparently been removed from the page. Before they were removed, users had expressed anger over the incident, while others voiced their support for the officer.
Flores created the GoFundMe page Sunday as he sought “justice” for Juan and attempted to locate him, which he successfully did, according to an update on the page.
As of Monday morning, the campaign had raised more than $33,000; the funds will be utilized to help cover the vendor’s legal costs and financial losses.
“Juan is a symbol of the injustice that takes place to street vendors. Therefore a collective effort to support street vendors will also benefit,” the page stated.
Meanwhile, a petition calling for the officer’s removal has been launched on the Care2 website. By Monday morning, it was supported by more than 12,000 people.