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He Got a Ticket From the Police He Called to Protect Him, Then Long Beach Had This Street Vendor’s Back

12:52 PM PDT on June 2, 2021

    stoy nervioso,” “I’m nervous,” said street vendor Eliu Ramírez as he prepared himself to receive a crowd of over 100 people in Long Beach.

    This past Saturday, the 35-year-old vendor from Puebla, Mexico, received an outpour of support after a video went viral showing a group of kids verbally harassing him and another vendor. At one point in the video, the kids grab items from the vendor's carts and throw them to the ground. To make matters worse, when Ramírez and José Eugenio Vivanco called Long Beach police for assistance, the officer who arrived cited the vendors with a $900 ticket for not having the proper permits to sell food. The entire incident made Executive Director of the Local Hearts Foundation, Tito Rodriguez, better known in Long Beach as The Hood Santa feel very uneasy, so he decided to organize a community buy-out for both vendors. 

    “All attacks against street vendors suck, but when it happens in your hometown, it's like if it's happening in your house, you know, so I knew we had to do something,” said Rodriguez. 

    For him, being able to help both of the street vendors was extremely important and something near and dear to his heart. Growing up, his mother was a street vendor. She sold shoes and clothes at the local swap meets. 

    “I know how much goes into being a vendor because I saw my mom go through it. I know they wake up super early. I know they do it because they love their families,” said Rodriguez as he looked at the vendors assisting the long line of customers. “So to me, vendors represent family, raza, hard work, and unity.”

    This is why the event was purposely held in Long Beach at Cedar Avenue and 20th Street, where both vendors were harassed. Rodriguez said it was to let the community know that the vendors are not alone. 

    Tito Rodriguez better known as The Hood Santa poses with street vendor Eliu Ramírez.
    Tito Rodriguez better known as The 'Hood Santa' poses with street vendor Eliu Ramírez.

    Although the event was set to begin at 1 PM, the community started to show up as early as noon buying esquites (boiled corn in a cup) and nieve de garrafa (handmade Mexican-style sorbets) from Ramírez. Long-time customer Irma Rodarte was one of the first customers to show up with her kids in support of the vendor. 

    “Don Eliu, como esta?” “Don Eliu, how are you?” she said to him. When Ramírez looked up, he immediately went over to hug Rodarte. He kept saying how thankful he was for all of their support and help. See, Irma’s daughters were one of the first people Ramírez reached out to when the incident occurred. 

    “My daughter put him on tiktok, and it attracted a lot of support, and we are so happy because he is like family to us, and he didn't deserve this,” said Rodarte. “All vendors are very important members of our community, and they deserve respect.”

    Irma Rodarte and her family who have been long time customer of Eliu Ramirez showed up on Saturday to show their support for the vendor.
    Irma Rodarte and her family who have been long time customer of Eliu Ramirez showed up on Saturday to show their support for the vendor.

    Ramírez who has been serving the community of Long Beach for the past 12-years, admitted that he loves being a street vendor, but he said the job is not as easy as some may think. Although his everyday shift begins at 2 PM, his work starts as early as 6 AM. For about eight hours, he prepares all of his ice creams and inventory. Each flavor of ice cream takes him almost two hours to make.

    “We put a lot of love into what we do, and everyone sees us selling, but they don't realize how much work we do behind the scenes,” Ramírez said. “Which is why incidents like the one we experienced this past week hurt so much.”

    Wendy Guardado, the founder of Street Vendors United, a group that highlights guidance and protection for vendors, said street vendors are very vulnerable to attacks, robberies, and harassment because they often operate alone. The group who showed up supporting both vendors provided Ramírez and Vivanco with pepper spray and body cameras. The cameras can be placed on their shirts or in front of their carts, helping the vendors better document any bad encounter they may come across. The videos potentially could serve as evidence if another attack were to occur. 

    “I think nowadays, being able to record and document the experiences vendors endure is super important because it lets everyone know that we are watching,” said Guardado. “It lets them know we will not stand for this.”

    José Eugenio Vivanco serves his famous raspados to the community of Long Beach who came out to support two vendors after they were harassed earlier in the week.
    José Eugenio Vivanco serves his famous raspados to the community of Long Beach who came out to support two vendors after they were harassed earlier in the week.
    A local family enjoys a spiralized mango on a stick, a popular street vendor treat during the summer months.
    A local family enjoys a spiralized mango on a stick, a popular street vendor treat during the summer months.

    Raspado (shaved ice) vendor Vivanco, one of the vendors harassed this past week, couldn't help but smile cheek to cheek when he saw the long line of customers waiting to purchase from them. The vendor who used to work in a car wash has been street vending full-time for the past two years; the money he earns allows him to help his wife and three-year-old daughter, who reside back in Puebla, Mexico. 

    “We don't rob anyone. We work to get a bit of money to support our families,” said Vivanco. “I was very resigned when it all happened because we got a ticket, but I can't thank the community enough for their help because if it wasn't for them, I don't think the police would have taken our tickets away.”

    After much pressure from the online community, the Long Beach Police Department visited the vendors and let them know that their $900 tickets were annulled. Soon after, the department put out a statement online to state that citing vendors was against the department's practices. They also noted that the female adult who was present with the kids was eventually cited. 

    In an email to L.A. TACO, LBPD added:

    We’d like to reiterate that Department employees will be reminded of our practice to not cite vendors for not having proper licenses to operate, to ensure there is no confusion with our officers regarding this practice.”

    Rodriguez pointed at the vendor's experience with police as something that needs to change. He expressed how politicians should be doing more for those who serve the community on a local and state level. Recommending they meet with vendors to hear their stories to understand better their experiences and the type of help they need. 

    Jose Luis Millán the vendor who was shot in Watts on April 30th meets with the two vendors who were harassed in Long Beach.
    Jose Luis Millán the vendor who was shot in Watts on April 30th meets with the two vendors who were harassed in Long Beach.
    Jose Luis Millán the vendor who was shot in Watts on April 30th meets with the two vendors who were harassed in Long Beach.
    A supporter holds up a sign in support of street vendors. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
    A supporter holds up a sign in support of street vendors. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

    As for Ramírez and Vivanco, they said the best support always comes from the community. “We need to support each other,” said Ramírez. On Saturday, both vendors were also visited by Jose Luis Millán, the Watts vendor who was shot on April 30th. Despite going to the hospital earlier that week due to pain near his wound, Millán attended the event with his wife and kids. 

    Ramírez stopped serving customers for a moment to meet and embrace Millán with a hug. 

    “Estamos en esto juntos, no estás solo” “We’re in this together, you're not alone,” said Ramírez to Millán. All three vendors are natives of Puebla, and although they do not know each other personally, Saturday’s event bonded them. Millán was surprised to see Vivanco at the event because although he never knew his name, he remembers seeing him a few times at the Piñata District, where he often purchases his inventory. 

    “It’s a small world, but we have to support each other as vendors because we are the only ones who truly understand what we go through every day,” said Millán after purchasing some items from both vendors. 

    All three vendors have been set up with GofundMe accounts, and despite someone attempting to steal $20 from one of the vendors towards the end of the event, the vendors feel overwhelmed with all the love and support they have received. 

    “I just want to say thank you to everyone who is showing support to me and my compañero. It’s really what keeps us going,” Ramirez said. “And to other vendors, don't be afraid to speak when things like this happen because I know sometimes we don't call the police thinking that we don't have rights, but we do have rights, and we need to exercise them.”

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