National outrage was sparked when a video emerged over the weekend of a man operating a hot dog stand without a license on the UC Berkeley campus having his earnings seized by a University of California police officer.
Now a GoFundMe created to support the unlicensed street vendor and cover his legal fees and personal losses has raised over $52,000 dollars in two days.
The street vendor, identified by NBC 7 San Diego only as “Beto,” was selling hot dogs near Memorial Stadium during the university’s first home football game of the season. Martin Flores, a bystander, captured footage of UC police officer Sean Aranas approaching the hot dog vendor and giving him a ticket for violating Berkeley’s municipal code by selling food without a license.
Officer Aranas then opened the man’s wallet and seized his money.
"You’re going to take his hard-earned money?" Flores can be heard saying in the video. “That’s not right,” he says repeatedly.
"We’re going to take it to the judge, and the judge can decide if it’s right," Officer Aranas said. "This is law and order in action."
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal tool that permits law enforcement officials to seize private property they claim has been involved in certain criminal activity. It is principally a tool used to fight organized crime, but the process raises several civil liberties concerns and is often abused.
In this case, “Beto” was deprived of his personal property before appearing before a judge in a court of law, where he would have the opportunity to challenge the ticket.
After his video went viral, Flores launched a GoFundMe account to raise money to cover the vendor’s “legal and personal” losses. The goal was to raise $10,000, and after two days, people have donated over $52,000. The quick charity of the American people speaks to the American intolerance for government overreach, still as strong as ever.