A fundraiser for a bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor who had a UC Berkeley police officer confiscate his money has generated $88,000.
Since a videotape of the episode went viral on Sept. 10, a fundraising effort for Rigoberto Matias has gathered nearly 5,600 donations, according to the fundraising site.
The effort’s founder, Martin Flores, said the money will cover any legal expenses Matias incurs fighting the citation he was issued by UC Berkeley police. The rest will go toward buying him a food truck.
The total is about half what the vendor would need for a brand new food truck but could pay for a used one, Flores said.
“I’m supporting his vision. The idea would be that he could buy himself a legitimate business,” Flores told the Times Monday.
Over the weekend, Flores presented Matias with a novelty check for more than $87,000, the amount that had been raised through Saturday.
“I want to thank everyone for their support and for all their help,” the vendor told bystanders in Spanish.
Flores said that besides helping Matias, he hoped the fundraiser and subsequent media coverage could generate interest in the regulations surrounding food vending and how they are enforced.
The officer at the center of Matias’ story had cited Matias for operating without a permit.
In a video of the confrontation, taken by Flores on Sept. 9 as he bought hot dogs for himself and his daughters after a football game, the officer is seen pulling $60 in cash from the vendor’s wallet and folding it into his hand.
The vendor objects and stands by as the officer puts the money away and begins to write a citation.
UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said officers have been instructed to monitor the campus for illegal vending outside event venues.
“This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses, and even human trafficking,” Biddy said. “In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
Flores said that he was buying hot dogs from the vendor for his kids after Cal’s game against Weber State when the officer interrupted them to cite the vendor.
The officer asked for the vendor’s ID and as the man fumbled through his wallet, the officer took it out of the vendor’s hand, Flores said.
“That’s when I thought something was not right,” Flores said. So he pulled out his phone and began to record.
In the first moments of the video, the officer is seen pulling bills from the man’s wallet and folding them into his hand.
Flores repeatedly says, “That’s not right,” and asks the officer why he’s taking the vendor’s “hard-earned money.” Flores claims that people were drinking in public not that far away, and that officers should have targeted them instead.
“Yeah, well he doesn’t have a permit. He doesn’t have a permit,” the officer responds. “Yep, this is law and order in action.... Thank you for your support.”
Biddy ordered the Police Department to open a complaint investigation into the officer’s procedural and management issues related to the incident. He said the university is “committed to continuing to engage the campus community in order to realize better ways to serve it.”
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