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‘Let’s Get La Migra Here:’ Racist in Long Beach Attacks An Indigenous Street Vendor Stand And Threatens Them With Calling ICE

Screenshots from Lionel’s Video.

Nowadays, we see street vendor attacks going viral online almost every month, from verbal attacks to physical ones. Because of this, street vendors are now arming themselves not with guns but with potentially a bigger weapon, cell phones. 

The reality is that attacks on street vendors have happened for years; the only reason why we’re now seeing a rise in attacks is that vendors and customers are now capturing these encounters on video. Such was the case for indigenous taquero Lionel Perez, owner of Tacos Lionel,” in Long Beach. The taquero from Tamazulapam del Espíritu Santo, a small mountain village in Oaxaca’s Indigenous Mixe region, was recently at the forefront of yet another attack. 

The last time L.A. TACO spoke with Perez was in July to cover his craft of making one of Long Beach’s best tacos al pastor. Almost to the mark of his last conversation with L.A. TACO, he reached back out with a video of what happened.

Last week on Tuesday, August 2nd, about 5 hours into his shift Perez and his team were verbally attacked and threatened by a white older male wearing a plaid shirt and L.A. cap. In a video recorded by the 29-year-old taquero, the man who is seen visibly upset approaches the stand from behind and starts yelling: “Fuck you, we have been here for nine years. Let's get the migra here. Let's get ICE here!”

Customers who were lined up around 10 P.M. to get their tacos are heard defending the street vendors who mainly speak Mixe and Spanish. One yelled out from the side, telling the man: “You should be embarrassed by yourself, a grown-ass man acting like a little kid. Get out of here, bro.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the man had attacked Perez and his staff. In a previous encounter with him, Perez recalls the man pushing one of their grills to the ground. Actions the man himself admits to in the video when he looks Perez in the eyes and says: “You know me. I haven't been in your face in a while.”

 

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Perez said the man has always approached them in an aggressive way and although he may not understand every word he says to them he said he can tell he doesn't like them.

“I don't understand a lot of English, but I understood when he said that we need to go back to Mexico to sell,” said Perez over the phone. “He said that before I decided to take my phone out to record.”

Further in the video, the man yells at Perez, asking: “You got a business license from the health department? No, you don't, do you?” 

Shortly after, the man is seen walking around a bush that separated him from the taco stand, and he walks over and throws one of Perez’s containers to the floor before he grabs another and throws it at the vendors. The video ends with the man walking away, giving everyone the middle finger. To make matters worse, Perez thinks the man called The Health Department on them. 

“This happened on Tuesday, and by Thursday, The Health Department was already here and told us we couldn't be here anymore,” he said. “We don’t know if it was him, but we assume it was because of what he said that day and other days.”

As for what happened on Tuesday, Perez said customers who witnessed the attack called the police on behalf of the vendor, and the incident was recorded. Perez has not filed any charges yet, but he was given information on how to do it when he is ready. The police also informed Perez on how to file a restraining order against him. Now the vendor is contemplating moving from his location.

“We're thinking of moving because we just don't want to deal with him anymore and don't want things to get worse,” said Perez. “We don't want to move, but we may not have another option.”

The fear of things getting worse is understandable, especially with attacks escalating quickly. Most recently, a fruit vendor in Gardena was shot and killed in front of his 7-year-old daughter while he was working. And last month, a street vendor was slapped across the face by a woman who was upset over having to wait five minutes for a burrito. 

Because of this, advocates for vendors are currently asking people to sign a petition that is pushing for these attacks to be considered hate crimes. Advocates and vendors are asking for better protection for street vendors. 

As for Perez, he said they are looking for a new location not too far from their original spot on Atherton Street and Clark Avenue in eastside Long Beach. He said they will remain where they are unless “the city” decides to remove them before they find a new location. 

Tacos Lionel, E. Atherton Street, and Clark Avenue. Closed Mondays. Open 5 PM to midnight on weekdays and 5 PM to 1 AM on Friday and Saturday.

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