Elotero Benjamín Ramírez Assaulted for Second Time in a Year
It's also the second brutal assault on a street vendor in two weeks' time
Vendor Benjamín Ramírez – the 25-year-old elotero whose degrading assault by Carlos Haka in Hollywood went viral last year – has been attacked again.
Mundo Hispánico reports that he was assaulted on the 31st of March as he was finishing his day in the Hollywood area by two men who had bought raspados from him. Ramírez told the outlet that when he went to give them change for the $20 they had handed him, they beat him and took everything he had – about $180.
The assault was vicious and involved studded gloves, according to the police report, leaving Ramírez with skull fractures and a tough recovery ahead of him.
Sadly, fear and vulnerability are constants for vendors like Ramírez.
Just two weeks prior to Ramírez’ beating, another vendor – 54-year-old Pedro Daniel Reyes – was brutally assaulted and robbed in South Central as he was setting up for the day just before dawn. Reyes (below) sustained facial fractures, lost three of his teeth, and was left unconscious in the street.
Three years earlier, a taco vendor was shot at 51st and McKinley Avenue, in what appeared to be an attempted robbery. Lower-level assaults and robberies are common, but rarely reported.
Vendors are generally at the mercy of the streets – especially in areas where gang activity is intense and they can be pressured into paying a “tax” or “rent” in order to be able to vend (but which still doesn’t absolve them of having to worry about getting robbed or assaulted). The fact that so many are immigrants, that they pound the same neighborhood streets every day, and that vending has yet to be legalized also means they are easy targets – they are less likely to report crimes for fear of retaliation, deportation, receiving a citation themselves, and/or having their livelihoods confiscated.
The failure of L.A. to both finalize a vending ordinance and provide one in a form that responds to vendors’ actual needs (like allowing for more than two vendors per block to help with these kinds of safety concerns) means that this uneasy status quo endures. It affects the decisions vendors make. Not having permits means they may be setting up at odd hours when there are fewer eyes on the street and they are more vulnerable because of the need to stake out a space. Or they might not be maximizing their profits because they are afraid their goods could be confiscated at any time. Ramírez himself told L.A. Taco he was reluctant to use the new cart he received from Art Ramírez (no relation) and JP Partida of Los Ryderz after his own was destroyed by Carlos Haka for just that reason – he was afraid it could be taken away from him.
In the video with Mundo Hispánico (above), Ramírez’ mother decries the lack of protections for vendors and what she called “false promises” by city council to move forward on an ordinance.
She recounts that she got the call from the hospital staff – not from Ramírez himself – because Ramírez couldn’t speak. She also says that if he is going to continue to vend in that area, she hopes he will stay on busier streets and make sure to be off the streets before dark.
Ramírez tells Mundo Hispánico that if he should return to vending, he is considering staking out space in another neighborhood.