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East Los Street Vendor Pushes Through After Being Attacked and Robbed While Selling Fruit in Long Beach

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]tanding outside his home in East Los Angeles, 22-year-old Gerardo Iván Olmeda Del Pilar points at his face. His cheeks, jaw, and one of his eyes is swollen and bruised.

“I’m not as swollen as before, but it still hurts,” said Del Pilar as he touched a lump on the side of his head. 

Speaking in Español, he describes how on Saturday, January 16, he was beaten to the ground and robbed by two men while he sold fruit on the corner of Burnett Street and Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach. 

Del Pilar, who has been street vending for the past three years, said his day started like any other. This Saturday, the only difference was that he opened his fruit stand a bit later than usual because that day, it was his turn to give his co-workers (fellow vendors) a ride to their work stations. He recalls driving to San Pedro, where he dropped off a few vendors and made a few stops before arriving at his puesto (stand) in Long Beach at around 11 AM. 

“Todo estaba tranquilo (everything was calm), then I want to say four hours passed when two men came towards me and like any other customer they asked me for an order of fruit,” he said. 

It was approximately 3 PM when the two men described by Del Pilar as two Black males in their 20s, one with a large neck tattoo and the other with a hoodie, approached him. He swiftly cut and prepared their fruit orders when out of nowhere, as he extended his hand to give one of the men their order, he was struck on the chin. Shortly after, the other man began to attack him, and as one hit him, the other searched his pockets until they found his wallet and ran.

“They left me there on the ground; I tried getting up to clean the blood off my face because I couldn't see anything...”

“They left me there on the ground; I tried getting up to clean the blood off my face because I couldn't see anything,” said Del Pilar. “I tried covering myself as much as I could, but the punches kept coming, my shirt was filled with blood from my face, and it was all over the floor as well.”

The two men stole $500 from him, pay that he had received earlier that morning for his work done the previous week. Del Pilar said a young man riding a skateboard asked him if he needed someone to call an ambulance. A bit dazed and barely understanding the young man's English, he nodded yes. 

Gerardo lets his co-worker and friend take pictures of him a few hours after his attack on Saturday, January 16. Photo via Gerardo Iván Olmeda Del Pilar.

The police and ambulance eventually showed up, checked his wounds, and asked him if he wanted to be transferred to a hospital, to which he said no. Del Pilar was too scared to go to a hospital due to the growing cases of COVID-19, so he decided to wait before seeing a doctor. 

The robbery was a hard hit for him. Like other vendors, the pandemic has impacted his sales, which have slowed down. 

The robbery was a hard hit for him. Like other vendors, the pandemic has impacted his sales, which have slowed down. “It’s difficult, but I understand. People are just scared to buy from vendors for the same fear of possibly catching el virus,” he said.

This is why two of his longtime customers Alex Diaz and Marisa Gomez, came to his help when they noticed what happened to him. Aside from the day of the attack, both of these customers started two separate gofundme accounts for Del Pilar. Together they have raised over $8,000 that will be donated to him at the end of this week. 

Gomez, who considers Del Pilar’s fruit to be some of the best fruit in Long Beach, said she was shocked when she and her boyfriend Osmar Olea found their favorite vendor beaten up.

“It’s crazy. We have to take care of each other. This is our community. We have to look out for these vendors, and we need to have their back,” Gomez said. “I also think that the city council or the mayor should get involved and start helping these vendors by providing them with some sort of security, not policing—security.” 

“This won't stop me. It’s what I’ve always done, and it's what I'll continue to do, trabajar (work.)”

Besides working amid a pandemic, vendors often have encounters with police and the city and are vulnerable to attacks like the one this weekend. 

Last year L.A. Taco reported on several attacks on vendors that happened from March through April of 2020. 

Del Pilar is waiting a bit before he officially goes back out to sell, to recover physically and mentally. Despite experiencing what he described as a very upsetting experience, the 22-year-old from Veracruz, Mexico, is very thankful for all the support from his customers and community. 

He tells L.A. Taco that he intends to keep going. 

“When we decide to come here [to the U.S.], it's because we want to get ahead in life. And that's why I've been working every day since I got here,” Del Pilar said. “This won't stop me. It’s what I’ve always done, and it's what I'll continue to do, trabajar (work.)”

Anyone who wants to support Del Pilar can donate money to either of the gofundme accounts his customers created, one created by Gomez here and the other created by Diaz here

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