An outraged crowd gathered on the steps of San Bernardino City Hall after a viral video showed a street vendor being handcuffed while his food and equipment was confiscated.
Police arrived at Baseline Street and Del Rosa Avenue on Saturday while Cesar Marroquin was selling tacos alongside other street vendors.
The situation escalated and Marroquin was detained as he asked, “Why do you treat me like a criminal?”
Christian Contreras, the family’s attorney, said vendors are being “taken advantage of.”
“We’re here today to announce that we are filing a sweeping civil rights lawsuit against San Bernardino and their egregious civil rights violation based upon them targeting street vendors,” Contreras added.
The Marroquin family did not always work as street vendors; the pandemic shut down their catering business, forcing them to pivot.
“We used all our savings to survive and when almost that was gone my husband say, ‘You know what, we’re going to start street vending,” said Ivon Ceja, Marroquin’s wife.
Marroquin also suffered a heart attack in May, and after Saturday’s incident, he started having chest pains, forcing him to be hospitalized again.
“For us watching him go through this, we were really worried,” Ceja said.
The city of San Bernardino has refuted Marroquin’s claims, saying he’d been warned several times that he was not properly permitted.
“This particular vendor is not a stranger to city code enforcement,” said city spokesperson Jeff Kraus. “They have been engaged with on numerous occasions … He had talked to code enforcement and had been told that it’s not very far from being a legal food truck.”
While the state passed Senate Bill 946 in 2018, which largely decriminalized street vendors, cities and counties are allowed to have their own codes.
However, some argue that the process is lengthy and expensive, making it difficult to comply while there are bills to pay.
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