by Malia Hurley
The tragic death of Fresno street vendor Lorenzo Perez was not merely an isolated incident, but one of the many recent hateful attacks on street vendors. A little more than a week later in Oakland, paletero man Hector Hernandez Patino Oakland was robbed, injured, and had his cart destroyed. These are just two of the many acts of violence that have happened against street vendors since March of the previous year. Though some may chalk these attacks up to simple robberies, they are a form of hate crime because they are a product of the way non-white immigrants (especially undocumented ones) are treated in the United States. Because they are placed on such a low rung of this society, they are at risk for being victims of un-checked violence. Societal standing, coupled with being older and more vulnerable, makes them an easy target for thieves and other criminals looking to prey on those who are perceived as weak.
In response to these brutal acts of violence on our beloved community members, groups like Tha Hood Squad Unity Patrol in Fresno have organized voluntary patrol sessions to protect street vendors as they conduct their business. GoFundMe’s have also been made to give back to those who have had their carts destroyed or medical bills to pay. In Stockton, two groups known as Stockton’s Finest and 209 Gloves Up Guns Down arranged a Cruise For Change event to raise awareness. One of the organizers, Mr. Medina, describes the details of planning the event, part of which involved car club members inviting Street Vendors to the park and promising safety. In an unknown place in California, A video on TikTok shows two individuals standing up for a man selling flowers who was moments away from being robbed. An unknown woman tells a vendor, “get your flowers, nobody is going to be doing nothing,” while protecting him from a man who had just thrown his flowers after attempting to rob him.
Though the community has done a great job at coming together to offer protection and stand up for vendors, it is also the responsibility of our leaders to condemn the actions of those attacking street vendors, and to also actively educate Americans on how misconceptions about minorities and immigrants can result in hate crimes. Our leaders set the example for how each group in society is to be treated. If they do not acknowledge and assist the struggles, then the people are left under the assumption that these lives are not valued and they are free to attack them with little to no pushback. We need to let our local government know, whether it be governors, mayors, etc, that this is an issue that they need to address. In the meantime though, it is important that we continue with community policing and continuing to thrive where our leaders have failed.