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Street Food Vendor Harassed by Police Raises Enough Money for New Food Truck

"Juan is a symbol of the injustice that takes place to street vendors."

Nick Rose

Nick Rose

Screngrab via OfficialJustice4Juan&StreetVendors GoFundMe page. 

"Yep, this is law and order in action for ya."

These are the words of University of California Police Officer Sean Aranas as he calmly takes money from hot dog vendor Beto Matias's wallet and folds it into his hand. Matias looks on despondently as Aranas writes him a ticket for not having a vending permit, and sternly lectures onlookers about the finer points of abiding by the law.

This exchanged, captured on video by UC Berkeley alumnus Martin Flores, quickly went viral after being posted to Mexican Vines' Facebook page over the weekend, garnering more than 6 million views and an outpouring of support for the bacon hot dog vendor.

On Sunday, Flores decided to set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of tracking down Matias, whose identity was not known at the time, and raising money for him and other vendors confronted with similar difficulties. It turned out to be an altruistic move followed by a rare double-dose of good news.

First, Flores was able to track down the vendor; then, as of Thursday morning, his crowdfunding page was able to raise nearly $79,000 to help him get back on his feet—well above the initial goal of $10,000. Flores said he would use the additional funds to address the larger issue of discrimination against street vendors.

"Juan has been located!!!!" Flores wrote in an update to the GoFundMe page, adding, "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. Juan is a symbol of the injustice that takes place to street vendors. Therefore a collective effort to support street vendors will also benefit."

In addition to covering Matias's legal and personal losses, Flores also told the NY Daily News that any extra money would go toward helping him purchase a fully licensed food truck. The remaining money would go toward "other vendors who have been robbed of their hard earned living through citations and removal of their carts."

Additionally, an investigation has been opened into the actions of Officer Aranas at UC Berkeley.

"I have instructed University of California Police Department (UCPD) to open a complaint investigation," UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said in a press release. "We will assign an investigator to look at both the procedural and management issues related to the incident."

Although there has been outrage over the way that Aranas handled the confrontation with Matias, Biddy went on to clarify that "In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence."

Last month, LA street vendor Benjamin Ramirez's elote cart was violently overturned by an angry "Argentine metal musician" after Ramirez threw chili powder in his eyes, a move he says was in self-defense. Like Beto Matias, Ramirez also became the beneficiary of a GoFundMe campaign that far exceeded its goals. Some of Ramirez's buddies, who are members of Southern California lowrider bike clubs, even made Benjamin a very cool brand new cart based on his original, which was permanently damaged during the attack.

Correction: The original headline for this piece suggested that the incident with Matias had taken place in Los Angeles, when in actuality it took place in Berkeley, California. We apologize for the confusion and regret the error.