BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – The East Bay hot dog vendor who was seen getting busted by a UC Berkeley police officer in a video that went viral over the weekend talked to KPIX 5 on Monday about the incident.
A video clip of the officer harassing hot dog vendor Beto Matias and taking money from his wallet has sparked outrage online.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just trying to make a living,” Matias told KPIX 5 through an interpreter on Monday.
He said it was the first time anything like this had ever happened in seven years of being a street vendor.
The moment was captured on a customer’s cell phone. The officer — later identified as UC Berkeley Police Officer Sean Aranas — stopped Matias as he was doing business outside of Memorial Stadium after a Cal football game Saturday.
His crime: selling hot dogs with out a street vendor’s license.
“I thought he was going to arrest me and that’s why I got scared,” explained Matias.
Then the officer started rifling through Matias’s wallet.
“He took my ID, he took my wallet. But what I didn’t like was that he took my money,” said Matias.
The officer took $60 cash that the hot dog vendor made that day.
KPIX 5 has learned UC police are cracking down on unlicensed street vendors. Officers have been instructed to seize their money as evidence. The incident is now being investigated.
A UC Berkeley student has also started an online petition to have Aranas removed from his job.
Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said the university was reviewing the incident and Officer Aranas remains at work.
In a statement, Biddy said, “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. In addition, while I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular case, our practice is to issue warnings before giving a citation. In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
Biddy also said three other people were cited that day for vending without a license near the stadium, and that enforcement action against non-permitted vending and ticket scalpers are in response to requests from the community.
The video of the confrontation posted to Facebook has gone viral, generating thousands of views and responses.
“I did not think it would get this much attention,” said Matias.
The man who took the video set up a GoFundMe page to support Matias, with the money raised intended for covering his legal and personal losses. As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign has raised over $60,000 for Matias and other vendors who have been cited while trying to make a living.
Matias says he already knows what he’ll do with his share.
“I’m going to use the money to get a permit and help other vendors,” he said.
The GoFundMe page also announced Tuesday that a public event will be held in Los Angeles within a couple of weeks to present the funds. The announcement included a thank you to supporters for helping to “humanize street vendors and NOT criminalize.”