Police harassment of vendors may shed light on Westlake anger
A candlelight vigil was held last night for Manuel Jamines, the Westlake man who was shot and killed by police Sunday, Sept. 5 for allegedly coming after officers with a knife. Participants held Styrofoam cups with lit candles inside, marched down Sixth Street and demanded justice for what they see as an illegitimate use of police force.
[FOR THE RECORD: The name of the man killed by police is Manuel Jaminez Xum, not Manuel Jamines as originally reported.]
However, beneath the surface of much community outrage over the shooting, lies the issue of how police behave toward street vendors. Residents tell of officers throwing merchandise into the street or throwing it in a dump truck or simply confiscating it along with the seller’s money.
“The community is very mad,” said Juan Romos, a community organizer. “This situation must stop.”
In Westlake, street vendors can be seen everywhere selling clothing, wallets, DVDs and jewelry to a name a few. Police target them because many do not posses a license to sell goods on the street.
“We are in a crisis, a recession,” said Romos. “People have no other option but to come here and sell things.”
Last night’s vigil, comprising approximately 50 people, was smaller than previous actions this week. Police were also less visible. After marching, participants stayed at Sixth and Union, the site of Jamines’ death, and talked, collected names and phone numbers for future organizing, as well as money for the Jamines family.
Roberto, a street vendor who asked his surname be withheld, called the police harassment of vendors a “psychological harm for the community.”
“It is persecution every fucking day,” he said. “We have problems they know about – crime, drugs – but they don’t do anything about it. Instead, they attack all the hard workers.”
Roberto has been selling his art around Westlake for four years. He has been arrested three times for it. He says he has tried to get a permit, but the city would tell him they were not issuing permits.
He says the city leaves vendors with little options. It is a situation he considers a mere money-making scheme on the part of City Hall.
“I think it is a big business,” said Roberto. “It’s crazy. If you go to court, the public lawyer gives you no choice to fight. They say the best you can do is accept you are guilty. They just want you to accept something so you pay.”
Roberto said his merchandise and cash have been twice confiscated by police. He describes a police department that will call street vendors “animals” and “motherfuckers.”
“It doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a grandmother,” he said. “They don’t respect you.”