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Street Vending

Fed up With Street Vendor Abuse, This Former Bernie Staffer Is Arming Them, Offering Security, and Teaching Self-Defense

2:38 PM PDT on March 18, 2021

    ou have to take matters into your own hands sometimes.”

    Cudahy resident Edin Enamorado has been arming street vendors throughout Los Angeles with pepper spray, tasers, and in some cases—providing personal security to vendors. 

    His efforts began in January after coming across a video of a 22-year-old fruit vendor that was attacked in Long Beach. Enamorado knew he wanted to do more after visiting the vendor that same day. 

    “I posted a video with Gerardo, the vendor that was attacked, and there was a comment on Tik Tok that said you should give them tasers, and that kind of sparked that idea,” he said.

    The 33-year-old from Guatemala is no stranger to mobilizing communities. His work began in 2014 when working as a truck driver and mobilized warehouse workers who were being mistreated. Eventually, he went on to work for “Tío” Bernie Sanders as a staff director. 

    Currently, Enamorado is a city commissioner for the parks and recreation in Cudahy and is also working as a research coordinator for the department of social work at USC. His current involvement with vendors comes as no surprise to anyone around him.

    “Yes, I have other projects that I'm working on, but at the top of my list right now is getting vendors immediate assistance,” he said.

    At the moment, Enamorado has hired two certified security guards, paying them out of pocket to patrol areas that are considered hot spots for attacks. Spots like Burnett Street and Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach where, according to vendors, several attacks and attempted robberies have occurred since the pandemic began. 

    Just last Saturday, Enamorado was called by a vendor who was scared working that corner in Long Beach. 

    Victor Cortes. Photo courtesy of him.

    “I paid a security guard, and we were out there for hours, vulnerable hours,” Enamorado said. “Although Gerardo doesn't work this corner anymore, his friends do, and they are scared.”

    Victor Cortes is one of Gerardo’s friends who is still selling fruit in that same corner; almost a week ago, three Black males attempted to rob him. 

    “They said they wanted me to give them $100 and I felt attacked, so I got my knife and told them no,” Cortes described in Spanish. “I said I'm not hurting anyone. I’m not giving you anything.” Clenching his fruit-cutting knife in his hand, he continued to tell the men to go away. 

    “I sell better, mas agusto (more comfortable), I’m not as worried as I have been in the past,” Cortes said. “I’m thankful to him and all the people who support him because that allows him to help us.”

    Meanwhile, a customer who was about to get out of his car to buy fruit recorded the end of the encounter. In the video, you see three males standing at a distance from Cortes. They are all wearing hoodies. The video shows them talking to each other, and then one of them appears to say something to Cortes before all three eventually walk away. 

    “It’s come to where people don't care if it's day or night, they have attacked us three times, and all three were in the day,” Cortes said.  

    Although Cortes feels much safer after being armed with a taser and pepper spray, he still plans on using Enamorado’s security services. Since meeting Enamorado, he has asked for security three times already. 

    “I sell better, mas agusto (more comfortable), I’m not as worried as I have been in the past,” Cortes said. “I’m thankful to him and all the people who support him because that allows him to help us.”

    Enamorado plans on growing his team and welcomes any suggestions the community might have on bettering street vendors' security. Part of his plans includes providing basic self-defense training for street vendors, where former boxer Andres Amador comes into the picture. 

    Amador has already begun teaching some vendors how to block punches. 

    “I tell them if you see guns, do not fight; your life comes first. If they try and punch you, I try to teach them how to cover themselves properly, so they avoid major injuries,” said Amador. 

    The idea to train vendors in self-defense came to Enamorado after he began studying different vendor attack videos. “In one video, a lady is being choked by the neck,” he said.

    Enamorado believes that some of the skills Amador can provide vendors with could potentially save a life one day. 

    “Just human to human, if you see something, do something. We understand people sometimes get scared to get involved, but we can’t just sit there and do nothing. This is our community. Let’s step up.”

    Along with the former Mexicali boxer, he plans to organize a meeting with a local boxing gym called JackRabbit Boxing Academy in Long Beach. The idea is to join forces and create video discussions about how Black and Brown communities can better support each other. 

    “We want to hold accountability in the neighborhood and find out what's going on,” Enamorado said. “Because, to be honest, there’s some racial tension going on right now, so we're trying to find a solution because the last thing we need right now is a race war.”

    Although Enamorado funded the first few services out of pocket, he now accepts support through his GoFundMe, where he has raised a little over $500. And in the meantime, he stays in contact with vendors he meets regularly. He has their phone numbers, and they have his to call at any given moment. 

    Enamorado drives around East Los Angeles and Long Beach and is now trying to move his efforts towards South Central to provide vendors with the same resources and security. He said he is learning as he goes and is going based on the vendors’ needs. Both he and Amador have only one message to the community of Los Angeles. 

    “Just human to human, if you see something, do something. We understand people sometimes get scared to get involved, but we can’t just sit there and do nothing. This is our community. Let’s step up.”

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