2 California food vendors receive outpouring of support after viral videos capture their woes

HOLLYWOOD, CA JULY 27, 2017: Benjamin Ramirez, left, with his father Alex Ramirez, right, servin
Benjamin Ramirez, left, and his father, Alex Ramirez, serve food from their cart in Hollywood. On Tuesday, the younger Ramirez was given a customized food cart after his previous one was damaged.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Two embattled sidewalk food vendors — one whose cart was knocked over by an angry man in Hollywood and another whose bacon hot dog profits were confiscated by a UC Berkeley bicycle officer — are enjoying a groundswell of public support after their misfortunes were captured on video.

In Los Angeles, Benjamin Ramirez, an elotero who sells cooked corn on the cob, was given a new, tricked-out cart by the Los Ryderz bicycle club after his old cart was damaged in July.

On Facebook, club member Art Ramirez (no relation to Benjamin) wrote about what inspired the club to design the customized cart, which has stylish tires and spokes and the words “el elotero” written in a painted script on the side next to a big ear of corn on a stick.

“I first saw Benjamin in an altercation with a belligerent neighbor on the news,” Ramirez wrote Tuesday. “I realized his 15 minutes were at hand. The intent of my friends and I has been from the very start, to make his last 5 minutes in the light be the best. Good luck Benjamin.”


In an interview with NBC4, Ramirez, the vendor, said the new cart was much better than his previous one. Along with the Los Ryderz, the following companies donated to the effort: Team OBC; Warren Wong Wheels, Skrapfather Bikes, Old Memories Tattoo, Los Bandoleros BC and Eastco Powder Coating.

“Don’t give up. You got to keep working,” the elotero told NBC.

Ramirez’s cart was knocked over July 17 by an angry pedestrian who confronted the vendor about setting up his cart on the sidewalk. The man cussed at Ramirez and then pushed over his cart, damaging the equipment and ruining the food. Ramirez captured the incident on his cellphone, and the viral video caused widespread outrage.

Jay Pee, a local gang interventionist involved in the new, custom cart’s design, said he understands why people felt compelled to help the food vendor.


“We were trying to do something right for someone trying to live the American dream,” he said. “The sad part about it is these people invest a lot of money into those carts and the food they’re going to sell.”

Over the weekend, a second vendor in Berkeley had some of his day’s earnings taken away from him by a university police officer who cited him for operating without a permit.

In a video that since has gone viral, the officer is seen removing cash from the vendor’s wallet before writing him a citation.

In a statement released Monday, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said vendors typically are given warnings before a citation, and he explained what prompted the officer to intervene.

“We have instructed our officers to monitor illegal vending outside our 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.”

In 2016, UC Berkeley police seized $5,419.17 as part of police investigations. So far this year, they’ve seized $68, including the $60 from the vendor on Saturday, officials said. The disparity is because of changes in California’s marijuana laws and a corresponding drop in enforcement, officials said.

Since the incident was posted on social media, a petition to have the officer fired has gathered more than 11,000 signatures.

A fundraiser for the vendor, meanwhile, has raised nearly $55,000. There have been more than 3,500 donations coming from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 27 countries. The average donation was $15, a spokesperson for GoFundMe said.


The fund’s organizer said the money will be used to pay for the vendor’s legal and professional costs related to the incident and to help support other food vendors in California.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.


San Diego starts washing down sidewalks, streets to fight hepatitis A outbreak

Pot delivery by drone? California cannabis czars put the kibosh on stoner pipe dream

Man carrying airsoft guns killed in clash with deputies in West Valinda

One was rejected by his mother, the other seized from smugglers: How two lonely tiger cubs became pals