Santa Monica street vendors claim city is unfairly targeting them

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Dozens of street vendors protested on the steps of Santa Monica City Hall on Friday, accusing the city of racial profiling and targeting them as they try to make a living.

The vendors claim the city has banned them from city parks, beaches and pedestrian ways, hitting them with expensive citations and even arresting some of them. The group released a video showing Santa Monica police officers shutting down vendors earlier this month.

"The video and images of caravan of enforcement agencies targeting food vendors is part of a policy to continue sowing fear into these communities," said Sergio Ramirez of Community Power Collective.

"They confiscated my possessions as well as nearly fracturing my arm," said Carmen Garcia through a translator at the rally.

The vendors say they are being unfairly targeted by the city, often chased by police and shut out of high-profit areas like the Santa Monica pier.

"I've been arrested, chased and treated like a dog," said street vendor Lucia Sanchez. "This needs to end now."

But Santa Monica officials say they were one of the first California cities to create a low-cost Sidewalk Vending Program. They point to the more than 100 street vendors who have signed up and paid the discounted $75 per-year permit fee.

"What we will not tolerate is the unsafe practices that are happening at the pier," said Councilwoman Lana Negrete.
She says the vendors who have been cited and shut down have been illegally using propane tanks with open flames on the wooden pier.

Santa Monica allows 13 street vendors to be on the pier. The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce says several other vendors have been packing the pier and harassing the vendors who have worked to legally get their pier permits.

"That creates blocking of other vendors that are permitted to be there and blocking of customers, and if you have open flames it's just not a safe situation," Becky Warren of the Chamber of Commerce told Eyewitness News.

As for arrests, Negrete says there have only been five linked to the vendors, and none of those were for street vending.

"Two were for assaults - one on a peace officer and another on another vendor - assault with a deadly weapon and an unregistered firearm on a youth."

The vendors and the attorneys working with them say they plan to begin a statewide campaign to streamline the food-vending permit process.

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