LOS ANGELES: Street Vendors Struggle Against Police, Despite Arrests

By Matt Handocerdos

A Los Angeles street vendor named Ana was targeted and arrested by bicycle-mounted California Highway Patrol (CHP) in front of the Rose Garden at Exposition Park Monday afternoon. Later in the evening, she was released and falsely charged with battery on a peace officer. Her court date is scheduled for next month.

Ana is a supporter of the People’s Revolutionary Defense Units (in Spanish, las Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionarias, or UDPR), and has been one of the organization’s more outspoken supporters and mass leaders. She is the second street vendor to be targeted by law enforcement after the initiation of UDPR’s vendor committee campaign at Exposition Park.

Yudis Leonel Cruz was also targeted for his involvement with the UDPR and his stance against CHP, California State Police and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. However, unlike Ana, he managed to escape the clutches of the state on September 23, after CHP and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) brutalized a street vendor mother and her daughter and arrested two UDPR militant supporters.

The two UDPR arrestees were released and also charged with similar trumped-up charges in an attempt to quell the revolutionary struggle of the immigrant street vendor masses.

According to her fellow vendors, Ana was seen holding her ground and demanding the police leave but not assaulting any law enforcement officers. Just the opposite happened; CHP officers grabbed and cornered her. Ana’s daughters were heard crying, demanding to know why their mother was being arrested. 

“You’re going to get yourselves into a big problem for being fucking liars because we weren’t doing anything … and if you think we’re alone, we’re not! We are not alone!” a vendor yelled in Spanish at CHP and LAPD.

Although CHP handcuffed Ana for the allegation of battery on a peace officer, this clearly contradicted what CHP officer F. Vargas said at the time of the arrest.

“The fact that I know is what I see here: is that she’s resisting. She can deny it all she wants but what I see is that she’s resisting. That is a public offense,” Vargas said.

Vargas further incriminated himself by giving away the real reason why she was arrested: for saying it is right to rebel, even against police.

“… How are you going to stand up here and say you’re going to fight against the police … you can’t do that. It’s not legit. That’s the reason why she’s in handcuffs,” he said.

The militant street vendors at Exposition Park are not getting harassed and arrested because they are vending illegally; they are being attacked because they are resisting the brutality of the corrupt and reactionary capitalist state and are organizing with Communists. It is precisely because of this that it is not “legitimate” to fight against the police. 

Witnesses said new Public Health employees have recently been ramping up their crack down on the militant street vendors at the park. This is what led to the previous clash reported by Incendiary at the park between vendors and county employees last week.

Pubic Health employees have been unable to steal a single vendor cart, give a single citation or arrest a single vendor for the last two or three months, according to supporters of the UDPR. The vendors see Public Health employees as generally irrelevant and cowardly, who only attempt to take away carts in the presence of law enforcement, usually CHP but also LAPD. Some of the Public Health employees, especially the new faces at the park, however, have not learned their lesson just yet.

Masked UDPR militants were not at the park when Ana was arrested, but they arrived shortly after. They were seen talking with the street vendors who had shown up en masse for the Rams vs. Chiefs game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The vendors showed them their bruises and pointed to where the altercation occurred. They spoke about how Ana was targeted and arrested. They spoke of a long history of abuse by the hands of local and state capitalist government. With tears damming up in their eyes, the vendors spoke with hate and conviction.

Children of the vendors thanked the militants for arriving. The militants shared some words of encouragement – that revolutionary actions are what transform people, that it is with revolutionary violence that the masses can claim lasting victories.

Militants later escorted street vendors, mostly hot dog vendors, from the Rose Garden to the neighboring Jesse Brewer Jr. Park, what the locals call “Turtle Park.” Public Health employees followed and, with the support of LAPD and CHP, attempted to kick out all the vendors from Turtle Park. But masked militants and vendors did not comply.

Vendors and militants recorded the encounter. Others led chants, stood on benches or ledges and spoke on the struggle in English and Spanish to the masses passing by.

Witnesses saw and heard the enthusiasm of the masses in confronting the police and County. Black and Latino men and women, boys and girls, shouted their support and uploaded pictures and videos to their social media accounts.    

CHP called in reinforcements. At the peak of the confrontation there were more than 30 CHP and LAPD officers inside the park, including a motorcycle cop obstructing the pathway, nearly surrounding the militants and vendors.

While generally the state’s armed forces outnumbered the militants and the masses, it was the state that backed off, inching away from the line of masked militants and masses seemingly only armed with bravery and cell phones.

A vendor yelled furiously at the face of one of the new Public Health employees, Stephanie McFadden, “I am not scared! I am not scared! You will not take anything away from us!”

After the cowardly Public Health employees and their CHP henchmen left, the militants and the vendors rejoiced and celebrated the small victory. But soon thereafter toward the end of the football game, infamous Public Health employee Peter Lee, one of his colleagues, and a CHP officer appeared.

“This is never going to stop,” one militant said to the reactionary servants of the state. “We’re never going to go away. You can’t do your job in peace anymore. This is how it’s going to be from now on. It’s only going to get worse for you. So, understand this, give up and just get the fuck out of the park! The street vendors will keep fighting back harder and harder!”

As the football game ended, the masses poured out of the coliseum and walked toward the vendors and the militants. The few remaining Public Health employees walked around briefly, and then returned to their white Public Health pickup truck, leaving soon thereafter frustrated and empty handed.

Although Ana is currently out of jail, she is still facing serious charges and has court next month. We ask our readers to donate to her legal fees and expenses. Please go to https://www.gofundme.com/eyub5v-support-ana