From the May-June 2018 issue of News & Letters
Los Angeles—On March 9, as part of International Women’s Day, 200 women vendors and supporters gathered outside City Hall for a press conference, lobbying and protesting to legalize their work as street vendors. They held signs in English and Spanish stating: “Los Angeles Vendor Movement,” “Street Vendors Justice is Women’s Justice,” “Work Is Not a Crime,” “Decriminalize Street Vending” and “Economic Justice For Women.”
A woman opened the press conference saying: “This movement is many years old, but can’t last under present conditions. We are mothers, sisters and grandmothers providing for our families.” Other speakers stated: “Our goal is legalization, which includes our safety and protection from extortion and police harassment. Private business owners should not be able to control public spaces and sidewalks.” And: “We vendors are workers, not criminals. We contribute to the economy. The city should support street vendors, not just private businesses.”
After the conference, some vendors lobbied city council officials for legalization without fees. Fees can be as much as 50% to 75% of vendors’ income and business owners can veto permits. Vendors want the right to work for a living without harassment.
Vendors rallied outside, chanting, “Mujeres luchando, al mundo transformando!” (Women fighting, transforming the world!) as drummers and guitarists livened the rally.
As the lobbyists concluded their visits and joined the rally, civil disobedience began with the occupation of Main Street. Seven Latinas lay down in the middle of the street, holding hands and forming a circle. Forty to 50 Los Angeles police officers arrived and cleared the street, threatening arrest. When the seven women resisted, police arrested each, one at a time.
There will be a city council committee hearing before a full council vote on this issue.