A violent encounter in Hollywood yesterday highlights the ongoing struggles of unregulated street vendors in greater Los Angeles, as a local elotero (corn man) had his cart overturned by strangers when an argument over sidewalk space escalated quickly.
Video of the incident has spread quickly across social media, with local activist Facebook group March and Rally Los Angeles among the first to send the story wide. There were millions of views as of early this morning.
In the scene, the street vendor begins recording just when it seems his interaction with a passing pair and a dog becomes confrontational. The passerby demands in Spanish that the vendor move out of his way. When the elotero — identified as Benjamin Ramirez — refuses, the assailant moves toward him and offers “to move the cart” for him.
Ramirez backs away initially then appears to throw chile powder toward the assailant, who in turn flips Ramirez’s cart. Ultimately the altercation ends without any further violence, but plenty of accusations of racism are thrown around between Ramirez and the attacker. The full video is below.
Since being posted less than one day ago, the video has already garnered over 4 million views on Facebook, while local news outlets NBC and CBS have also broadcast the clip. Writer Aura Bogado managed to speak to the victim’s father just hours later at the same corner, with Alex Ramirez saying his son Benjamin had only started the elotero gig a few weeks before. What’s more, the elder Ramirez says that he’s been selling from carts for 17 years, and never had a violent incident prior to today.
NBCLA reports that both Ramirez and the attacker are due to appear in civil court later this week, though it’s unclear what (if any) charges will be formally brought. The incident occurred on at the intersection of Romaine and El Centro Streets, a residential area.