New York, NY — In the land of the free, attempting to earn money in certain professions without first paying the state for the privilege of doing so can and will get you kidnapped and extorted. These laws are applied to children behind lemonade stands as well as adults selling tacos. The state callously and with extreme prejudice has been documented arresting people, or even beating up women to enforce these licensing laws. In the case below, one woman’s persecution — including kidnapping and strip searching — goes all the way to the top, thanks to New York City’s new mayor.
On April 29, Maria Falcon, a mother from Queens, and long time fruit vendor, had knocked off for the day from selling fruit and was sitting with her daughter when two of NYPD’s finest approached them. By this time, Falcon was not selling fruit any longer but because she had her cart with mangos, melons, and other fruits on it, those two officers, put her in cuffs and kidnapped her.
“I felt terrorized,” Falcon told amNewYork. But this was only the beginning of Falcon’s nightmare. Below is the footage, taken by her daughter and posted to Twitter over the weekend.
Horrific treatment of Maria, a mother, immigrant entrepreneur & her *daughter* who filmed
Earlier this week, Maria was arrested for selling mangoes & kiwis to customers she's served for 10+ yrs
Shame on our city for choosing cruelty, instead of supporting hardworking mothers pic.twitter.com/sjonO5FMjM
— Street Vendor Project (@VendorPower) May 7, 2022
After being publicly humiliated, Falcon was then taken to the department where she was held for hours. According to AMNY, officers told her to take off her sweater, pants, and shoes, and a female officer strip-searched her for drugs and weapons — for selling mangos.
After forcing the innocent mother to strip naked and searching her most private of areas, Falcon was issued a citation for the violation of unauthorized commercial activity.
“I felt very scared and very fearful,” she told the local news outlet. “I set up in an area where I’m not in anybody’s way. I’m up against the wall and I’m just there, not to do anything to anybody, just selling things like fruits and churros.”
After the video went viral over the weekend, Mayor Eric Adams held a press conference, during which he should have decried Falcon’s treatment but instead did the exact opposite. Adams fearmongered that people will soon be barbequing in the subway if mothers aren’t kidnapped and strip searched for selling fruit.
“Next day is propane tanks being on the subway system. Next day is barbecuing on the subway system,” said Adams in a press conference on Monday. “You just can’t do that.”
Despite Falcon being terrified of what happened, Adams, as Reason Magazine points out, says people should be afraid of her — because she is unable to obtain the proper permit thanks to the city limiting them. As Reason reports:
Yet, contra Adams’ remarks, this is not a story about the perils of mom and pop vendors selling products people want on the subway and what dangerous descent it might lead to. Falcon wasn’t cited because her business is inherently illegal. She was cited because she does not have a business license—something that many small entrepreneurs like herself cannot afford or obtain. The $500 permits are capped, meaning the thousands of people not fortunate enough to receive one are forced to shutter their livelihoods, operate illegally, or attempt to raise the money to lease one from a lucky license recipient at exorbitant rates, an infeasible ask for many.
“The MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] recognizes the benefits that vending can provide, but there are also safety-oriented rules about vending on platforms,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesperson for the agency, in a statement. “While there are a wide range of opinions about which rules to prioritize, the MTA appreciates that the NYPD is working across the board to protect subway riders and encourage compliance with all Rules of Conduct in the system.”
Now, this mother, who was likely already struggling to get by will be swamped in court fees and fines. Because police confiscated her means of making an income, she will have a very hard time attempting to pay for her extortion and her chances of ending up in jail for non-payment have now skyrocketed. Good job, New York.
Sadly, this is one of many incidents in which people trying to earn a living have been attacked or otherwise kidnapped by police ‘protecting society.’
In fact, a woman named Elsa, whose story TFTP brought you in 2019, was sitting next to Falcon on the day she was kidnapped and strip searched. For those who don’t recall, Elsa suffered a similar fate for selling churros in the subway. Her crime the same as Falcon’s — failing to first pay the state for the privilege of earning money to put food on the table.