A petition has been started to fire a UC Berkeley campus officer after he was caught on camera removing cash from the wallet of a hot dog vendor who was operating without a permit (video below).
The video was recorded by alumnus Martin Flores on Sept. 9, the Los Angeles Times reported. It shows Officer Sean Aranas pulling money out from the wallet of a hot dog vendor identified only as Juan -- who was working without a permit.
Flores said he was buying a hot dog for his kids after a football game when the officer approached the cart. Aranas then asked for Juan's identification, and took his wallet from his hands as he searched for it.
"That's when I thought something was not right," Flores told the Los Angeles Times. He then pulled out his phone and began recording.
Flores is heard saying, "That's not right," multiple times in the video as Aranas pulls money out of Juan's wallet. He asked the officer why he is taking Juan's "hard earned money" and points out that other people are drinking in public not too far away and not being targeted.
"Yeah, well he doesn't have a permit. He doesn't have a permit," Aranas responds. "Yep, this is law and order in action ...Thank you for your support."
Police later said they seized the vendor's money as evidence.
While Flores admitted that the officer wasn't wrong for giving Juan a citation, he argued that the officer was being selective.
"If he's really about law and order there's really so many other things he could've stopped," Flores explained. "I totally recognize that people have to have permits. But this wasn't about that. This was about identifying one vendor. If you want law and order, be law and order across the board."
A petition was started to have Officer Aranas terminated after the video went viral. It has received well over 27,000 signatures out of its 30,000 goal.
Flores also launched a GoFundMe page to help Juan cover his legal expenses and personal losses. That page has raised more than $52,000 in just two days. The initial goal was just $10,000.
But John Pavliga, who witnessed the incident, said Flores' video is "very misleading."
“A female UCPD officer who appeared to be Latina spoke to the vendor for a few minutes in Spanish while the male officer shown in the posted video stood nearby," Pavliga told Berkeleyside. "For whatever reason, Mr. Flores (who had been recording the female officer’s conversation with the vendor) chose not to include that footage, but instead show only this snippet with Officer Aranas.”
“On his Facebook page, Martin Flores made this out to be some kind of anti-Hispanic act by the UCPD. And that makes no sense," Pavliga continued. "Both of the officers who actively engaged the vendor were Hispanic.
“This whole episode looks like it was manufactured to stir up animosity between people. No one is above the law. Not even hot dog vendors favored by Martin Flores.”