San Bernardino street food vendor files lawsuit claiming city violated his civil rights

In a now viral video, it shows some of what unfolded as authorities approached the vendor and asked to see his food permit.

Leticia Juarez Image
Saturday, July 16, 2022
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In a video that has since gone viral, the man is seen getting handcuffed by police after he was told his equipment and food he'd prepared would be removed. Now, he's taken legal action.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Cesar Marroquín runs La Fonda Asadero in San Bernardino, but as a street vendor, he doesn't operate at any one location.

On Saturday, July 9, he was set up along East Highland with other food vendors when code enforcement and police showed up.

In a now viral video, it shows some of what unfolded as they approached Marroquín and asked to see his permit to sell food.

"We are experiencing a situation after COVID-19 that is very difficult," he said. "We have had to resort to selling food. Food that people love and is part of the culture."

But as the video goes on to show, Marroquín is handcuffed by police after he was told his equipment and food he'd prepared would be removed.

On Friday, Marroquín spoke outside San Bernardino's former City Hall with his attorney at his side. He said following the July 9 incident, he is planning to file a civil rights lawsuit against the city.

"These are the most marginalized people in the community," said Civil Rights Attorney Christian Contreras. "They are being taken advantage of, they are being subjected to civil rights violations, and they are being discriminated upon when they are apply for permits."

In the video, other vendors are heard coming to Marroquín's defense, shouting "SB 946," referring to a 2018 bill that decriminalized sidewalk vending in California.

Still, the bill does allow the cities, counties and the state to establish their own policies.

The city of San Bernardino said it is preparing to release police officers' body camera footage to dispute what was seen in the video released by Marroquín and another vendor.

"Because what was issued by the vendor was only a partial video, so we are prepared to issue, along with a narrative, police body cams," said City of San Bernardino spokesperson Jeff Kraus.

According to Kraus, Marroquín is no stranger to code enforcement and has been told with a few modifications he could operate as a legal food truck.

The city also says it's easy to obtain a permit.

"The process includes getting a seller's license for the state board of equalization, getting a food facility permit from the county health department, and training your workers to get a food service card and the last thing is a food facility insurance," said Kraus.

Kraus also said the police department is launching a personnel investigation into claims Marroquín was forcefully detained.