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Decriminalize Street Food…Again: 100 L.A Street Vendors March for Their Right to Earn

More than two dozen hot dogs buns filled with citations were presented in front of the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health’s headquarters in Baldwin Park yesterday morning as a form of protest against the continued criminalization of street vendors in the county. 
The community action was organized by Vendedores en Accion (VEA), Community Power Collective, and The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign. It attracted street vendors from all corners of the county to take part in the demonstration, from Hollywood to the Valley to Boyle Heights to MacArthur Park. Powerful signs in both English and Spanish were painted with sayings such as “MIS ATOLES Y TAMALES NO MATAN” (“My atoles and tamales do not kill”) to “CESEN LA CRIMINALIZACION: SOLO QUEREMOS GANARNOS LA VIDA HONRADAMENTE” (Stop the criminalization: We just want to earn an honest living).

This protest demanding the right to work without fear of being penalized by L.A.’s street vendors is the latest action in almost a month of nonstop civil unrest all over Los Angeles county. It is the result of what the majority of street vendors in Los Angeles argue to be an unfair policing system that prevents them from earning money since the start of the coronavirus shelter-in-place law. 

Yesterday’s event in Baldwin Park was a response to Mayor Garcetti’s initial exclusion of street vendor flexibilities in his “LA Al Fresco” temporary program to allow the city’s eating and drinking establishments from opening again, while some were granted to the restaurant’s brick and mortar restaurants. That decision drew criticism from the street vendor community and its advocates, especially since many street vendors had already purchased the controversially priced permit to legally vend in the city starting this year. 

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As a result of this public scrutiny,  Los Angeles city councilmember Monica Rodriguez drafted an “emergency” $5 million fund to directly help street vendors, as reported by Eater LA. Forcing Garcetti to also address the issue and announce “relaxed enforcement” of street vending-based violations. 

Nonetheless, the street vendors present on Monday’s protest say they are tired of being pushed to the sidelines and hope city officials recognize their struggles as entrepreneurs in Los Angeles’ informal economy.

          

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