A fund-raising drive to benefit a Berkeley hot dog vendor whose money was confiscated Saturday by a police officer has raised more than $70,000.
Beto Matias was selling food from his cart after a University of California, Berkeley, football game when a campus police officer cited him for not having a permit. The officer first confiscated $60 that Matias had in his wallet, saying it was evidence.
Martin Flores, a UC Berkeley alumnus who had been purchasing a hot dog from Matias for his daughter, caught the incident on video. The video, initially posted by Flores to Facebook but since made private after gaining 11.4 million views, has since been reposted by others.
In the video, the officer removes several bills from Matias’s wallet, then begins writing a citation. “That’s not right,” Flores says repeatedly, and asks the officer why he’s taking the vendor’s “hard-earned money.” Flores says that people nearby are drinking in public and encourages the officer to cite them, instead. “Did you call us?” the officer asks. “I’m telling you right now,” Flores responds. He continues to ask the officer why he’s confiscating Matias’s money.
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“Yeah, well he doesn’t have a permit. He doesn’t have a permit,” the officer responds. “Yep, this is law and order in action … Thank you for your support.”
A GoFundMe account created by Flores to benefit Matias, which remains active, had raised more than $70,000 as of Wednesday morning. Flores told The Huffington Post that the success of the effort surprised him. He now hopes to raise enough to help Matias realize a long-held dream of purchasing a food truck.
Matias acknowledged to Telemundo 48 that he lacked the proper permits to sell food on campus.
“They saw that I was not doing anything wrong, neither stealing nor anything, I was just working to support my family,” Matias said. He told the station that he was shocked when the officer took money out of his wallet.
“Well, at that moment I was in a state of shock because of what was happening to me … I don't know how to explain it. I was in a state of shock when I saw he was taking my money,” Beto Matias said.
In a statement released Monday, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said vendors typically are given warnings before a citation. Three other vendors outside the game Saturday were given warnings but not cited, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“We have instructed our officers to monitor illegal vending outside our event venues. This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses, and even human trafficking,” Biddy said. “In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
Biddy added, however, that an investigation has been opened into the incident. An online petition seeking the firing of the officer in the video has gained nearly 41,000 signatures.