Juan the Hot Dog vendor became a viral sensation on the internet this week after a video was published that showed a police officer giving him a ticket for not having a permit, and then taking all of the cash out of his wallet.
As the internet watched in horror, thousands of people responded by donating to a GoFundMe page for Juan. While the page’s initial goal was $10,000 to cover legal fees and financial losses, it has raised over $80,000 in the last week.
The important thing to remember is that the UC Berkeley officer’s treatment of Juan the Hot Dog vendor is not a rare occurrence—police have a history of targeting enterprisers and entrepreneurs, including children running neighborhood lemonade stands and teenagers attempting to earn extra money by shoveling snow for their neighbors.
Children Improperly Selling Lemonade
Two sisters, ages 7 and 8, had their lemonade stand shut down by police in Tyler, Texas, in June 2015. While the officers who interfered acted as though they were heroically saving the city from the two young girls who dared to attempt to sell lemonade without a permit, the girls explained that their mission was to raise $100 to take their dad to a local waterpark for Father’s Day.
A 10-year-old girl in in Orange County, California, was targeted by police in September 2016, for the crime of running an “illegal” lemonade stand. Instead of admiring her entrepreneurial aspirations, and the fact that she was charging less than a dollar for a small cup of fresh juice, police insisted that she needed a $3,500 permit in order to continue operating the stand.
This summer, a 5-year-old girl became the latest victim in the “War on Lemonade Stands” after four police officers targeted her stand in east London. She was issued a $200 ticket for operating the lemonade stand without a permit. While the fact that four officers were devoting their time to ensuring that a 5-year-old girl did not harm the public by selling them lemonade is one thing—the fact that instead of just asking the family to close up their stand, the officers issued the poor girl a ticket of $200 is absolutely ridiculous.
Teenagers Improperly Shoveling Snow and Selling Bottled Water
Two teenage boys in Bridgewater, New Jersey, felt the wrath of the police state in January 2015 when they prepared for an oncoming winter storm by going door-to-door and advertising their snow-shoveling services to neighbors. The high school students were reprimanded by police, who insisted that in order to receive any compensation for helping their neighbors rid their driveways of snow, they needed a $450 permit that would be valid for 180 days.
Three teenage boys were apprehended and detained by police in Washington D.C. in June, for the crime of improperly selling bottled water. The boys, who were offering bottles of drinking water to tourists visiting the Smithsonian Castle, were not charged for their heinous actions. However, they were detained by “undercover” officers in plainclothes, and the fact that the boys were forced to sit handcuffed in public until the officers decided they could leave, created a public spectacle.
Adults Improperly Selling Food and Flowers
Just as Juan the Hot Dog Vendor was recently targeted by police, food vendors in Sacramento, California, were subjected to similar treatment in May. Armed agents raided a local park where they seized food carts and destroyed food, all over the claim that the vendors did not have permits. However, it should be noted that the majority of the food vendors present had applied for permits—they just had not yet been granted.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office took to Facebook in May to brag about successfully getting another hardened criminal off of the streets in San Lorenzo, California. However, the suspect in question was apprehended for the heinous crime of selling fruits and vegetables on the side of the road.
The internet responded with criticism of the officers’ heroic actions, with one user reminding the sheriffs that, “legality does not equal morality,” and another user writing, “Justify however you want, if a deed doesn’t have an identified victim, it’s not a crime and you become the criminal. Badges don’t grant privileges of immorality.”
Police in Perris, California, saved residents from the danger of a woman attempting to earn money by selling flowers in July. Instead of attempting to talk to the woman, the officer who approached her decided to grab her. Then when the woman, who was clearly frightened, tried to move away, the officer grabbed her by her hair and attacked her.
“Legality does NOT equal morality.”
Just because something is legal does not mean that it is right. The idea that police are utilizing their taxpayer-funded time in the best way possible when they are issuing tickets to young children for operating a lemonade stand, or to teenagers shoveling snow for their neighbors, or to a woman attempting to sell flowers, raises serious questions about their priorities and why “policing for profit” is taking precedence over crimes that actually have victims.