LOS ANGELES: Street Vendors at Exposition Park Clash with County Workers

By Cajeme Iniciador

After approximately two months of relative tranquility, street vendors clashed again this past Sunday with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health employees at Exposition Park.

Public Health employees have been harassing Mexican and Central American immigrant street vendors for years throughout Los Angeles, under the pretext of protecting public health.

Public Health employees swooped on street vendors at the entrance of the Rose Garden of Exposition Park Sunday, physically assaulting a hot dog vendor and attempting to steal her cart and food. But the vendor, with the militant support of her vendor comrades, shouted down the Public Health employees, called on the surrounding masses to bare witness and was able to take back her cart.

“I didn’t care about the cart,” the vendor told Incendiary. “I care more about helping each other. Our weapon is our voice. We won’t run! We are the majority!””

Other vendors and witnesses recorded video of the clash. Vendors can be heard shouting at Public Health employees and law enforcement on bicycles, “We are working! We’re not stealing!”

Vendors spoke to the sympathetic masses passing by about the brutal County, City and State forces that crack down on the immigrant street vendor masses. The Public Health employees and their sentry police can be seen leaving at the end of the video.

“Cowards! Cowards! The city (and County) can’t win against the people!” vendors said in the video.

South Central Los Angeles’ Exposition Park is home to the Los Angeles Coliseum, the new Banc of California Stadium, as well as several museums. Recently, the park has been the site of struggle and confrontation as a local organization of masked militants has turned the park into a site of struggle.

The People’s Revolutionary Defense Units, more popularly known in Spanish as las Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionaries (UDPR), has been a regular presence at most sports games and large events which bring out street vendors.

Public Health employees have been by far the most antagonistic force at the park against the vendors, according to mass organization Serve the People – Los Angeles. Videos and photos show intense brutality at the hands of Public Health employees, destroying and stealing vendor carts and their food, physically assaulting vendors, and chasing them out of the park and into the street.

Several months ago two supporters of the UDPR were arrested as they were defending a street vendor from California Highway Patrol and Public Health employees. One vendor, after being chased and violently harassed, escaped the park and went into temporary hiding.

After the consistent presence of masked militants at the park, vendors have seen a dramatic drop in harassment. Even without the UDPR at the park, vendors have bravely confronted and fought against Public Health employees, and on several occasions have taken back their carts and merchandise.

The Public Health employees have mostly remained in their trucks, circling the park attempting to intimidate vendors. But the vendors can smell their cowardice.

Photos of pro-vendor propaganda were sent to Incendiary from what appears to be concrete walls and telephone boxes somewhere in Exposition Park.

Some images call for mass support in defending the vendors from ICE, county workers and local and state police. One image in particular shows the pictures of several Public Health employees, some named, with the words, translated into English, “Enemies of the people” at the top.

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Other images show a brief history of the vendors struggle at the park, with the first image on the left depicting a crying handcuffed vendor and a fat and arrogant police-pig with the words on the left, translated into English, “Do you remember the fear in your children’s eye?” The image directly to the right shows the masked militants themselves with the words, “We will conquer power! We will build the Bases of Support!”

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The final image appears to have borrowed artistically from the Communist Party of Peru’s propaganda with images of trucks (perhaps County trucks) toppled and on fire, vendors shouting with raised fists and words, translated into English, “With unity and power, nothing is impossible!”

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Many of the immigrant masses of street vendors show no signs of fear or demoralization. They are more confrontational. They have turned their fear into revolutionary anger and the UDPR appears to be funneling that energy into a reckoning force.  

The immigrant street vendor masses know words alone don’t change anything. But actions do.

“You all have to go through the same [experiences] to also lose your fear,” one vendor said. “We’ve lost our fear.”