Immigrants’ Reaction To Fontana Sidewalk Vendor Law Does Not Prevent Its Passage

Mayor Acquanetta Warren and her colleagues on the the Fontana City Council on Tuesday, October 24 were met with a firestorm of protest over their consideration and eventual vote to confirm an ordinance initially approved at the October 10 city council meeting imposing regulations on street vendors. That demonstration of discontent and disdain spilled over from the council chamber and the grounds of the Fontana Civic Center to the street upon which Mayor Acquanetta Warren lives, resulting in the arrest of the protest’s organizer and his bodyguard by the Fontana Police.
On October 10, relying upon the sidewalk vending authority municipalities are granted under them by Senate Bill 946, including Government Code section 51038, the Fontana City Council gave first reading of an ordinance which augmented the city’s previously-adopted Fontana Municipal Code chapter 15, article XVII, entitled “Sidewalk Vending,” to regulate sidewalk vending within the city by adding sections 1-14, relating to obstruction enforcement consequences and 15-829, pertaining to impoundment. The new ordinance gave code compliance officers or inspectors, police officers, firefighters, fire prevention specialists or examiners authority to impound a sidewalk vendor’s vending cart, equipment, food and/or merchandise if a vendor selling food does not have or display a valid health permit or the merchandise of a seller who does not possess a valid applicable sidewalk vending permit and a city business license. Food or merchandise can also, under the ordinance, be confiscated if the vendor, the vendor’s cart, goods or equipment obstruct private or public property, if the goods or merchandise is left unattended for more than 30 minutes, if the merchandise and cart prevent there from being a minimum of forty-eight inches of accessible path of travel on the sidewalk or if the items being sold create an imminent and substantial danger to the public. The ordinance confers upon the city “disposal authorization,” allowing officials to immediately dispose of impounded items that are perishable and/or cannot be safely stored. The ordinance authorizes the city to “dispose of any seized items held by the city for not less than 30 days from the date of impoundment.”
Upon passing the ordinance, on October 10, the city council voted unanimously to approve a six-month $598,224 contract with 4Leaf Inc. for the provision of “additional contracted code compliance inspectors to address non-permitted street vendors” to enforce the ordinance.
Under the California Government Code and the rules applicable to California’s general law cities, for an ordinance to be put into place as part of a city’s municipal code, it must be introduced during a public hearing, voted upon and passed with an initial majority vote of the city council, referred to as a first reading, and then be subject to a vote at a second public meeting of the city council, in what is termed a second reading. Thirty days after the majority approval at the second reading, the ordinance goes into effect.
Though Fontana’s sidewalk vending regulation ordinance did not mention nor was specific in any way toward any ethnic groups or individuals, recent immigrants to the United States, both documented and undocumented and legal and illegal, perceived the regulations contained in the ordinance as targeting them. So, too, did the immigrants’ advocates.
In anticipation of the second reading of the sidewalk vendor regulation ordinance on October 24, the leadership of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Edin Alex Enamorado, a self-styled advocate of fair treatment for those who are in his orbit referred to as Mexicanos, organized a mass show of disapproval of the enforcement action the City of Fontana is about to embark on. Well over 120 protesters converged on Fontana City Hall the evening of October 24.
As the city council was preparing to consider public input prior to the hearing, Mayor Acquanetta Warren noted that there were “over 30” members of the public wishing to address the council and obtained the consent of her council colleagues to reduce the normal three-minute speaking limit to one minute. Margo Alducin, an immigrant from Mexico who has lived in Fontana for more than 20 years, was critical of the council earmarking “$600,000 of our taxpayer money [to] harass hardworking street vendors. The community here today feels that this money would be better spent on providing training for our local vendors in providing with the legal assistance needed to fill out the proper forms.”
Joaquin Castellejos said the city was engaging in the “criminalization and oppression of street vendors. I’m not surprised, considering Acquanetta’s history of tearing down Latino communities.”
Amanda Morales, representing the Fontana Chamber of Commerce, implied she favored the ordinance, saying she was there to “advocate for our local restaurant and floral shop community. Our restaurants, primarily small Latino mom and pop shops have felt the negative effects of illicit street vending. We have heard story after story of restaurant owners on the verge of shutting down or laying off their employees that live in the city because they are unable to compete with the price points of street vendors. As a first-generation American and an owner in a third-generation family business, I know first-hand the battle it is to own a minority business in California. When business wins, the city wins.”
Jennifer Cardenas said, “You want to claim that vendors are dangerous, that somehow, they’re the problem in our neighborhoods, when you continuously poison our kids, poison our neighborhoods with warehouses. You want to normalize putting warehouses next to these high schools. All of a sudden you care about vendors? We’re going to vote you out and it’s going to happen soon.”
Crystal Calvillo said, “This ordinance is a direct obstruction to the economic freedom many Fontana and Inland Empire families of Latin American heritage. The fines and confiscated equipment will surely economically harm vendors and potential misdemeanor charges could impede future employment or prevent vendors from getting future residency or citizenship.”
Xochitl Gonzalez said it was fast food restaurants and not street vendors that were responsible for food poisoning incidents.
Evan Webb said the ordinance was “incredibly fascist, classist, racist, xenophobic and just a grave injustice.”
Carolina Rodriquez, personalizing her comments toward Mayor Warren, said, “This will go down as you, a woman of color, committing color-on-color crime, for the community because of what Evan just said. You are going to commit these innocent bystander community individuals that are trying to feed and support their family and community into cycles of poverty in the same system that you represent as that chair right now. Know that whatever it is that you are doing, it will follow you.”
Alexis Teodoro told the council, “I heard comments that restaurant owners are in favor of this policy and criminalizing street food vendors. I can unequivocally state that the formal restaurant industry is plagued with wage theft and, as a matter of fact, many former restaurant workers quit their jobs when they experience labor violations and become street vendors to run away from their rights being violated every day at the restaurants.”
When Olga Estrada sought to address the council in Spanish, Mayor Warren prevented the interpreter Estarada had with her from translating what Estrada was saying, insisting that the city’s interpreter do the translating. Estrada said she did not want tax money going to prevent street vendors from operating in the city. She said the city’s restaurants’ food was not that good and the offerings of the street vendors was better.
Through the city’s interpreter, Victor Pareda in Spanish said the city should use the money being expended on enforcement to assist street vendors in getting the permits required for them to operate.
Juvenal Estrada straight out asserted that street vending is a Latino issue. He told the city council, “You are totally out of touch with the community. 70 percent of the community is Hispanic. With this measure all you are proving is that you don’t even understand our community, that you don’t represent us. What you are giving us is a reason to start looking for a replacement.”
He issued a political threat to Warren. “I can assure you that most of these people that [sic] is over here are going to be volunteers to make you get out of office,” he said. “If you don’t push this measure back, you just prove you can’t serve our community and you need to leave office together with your council members.”
Veronica Roman in Spanish said the city was discriminating against those in the city who did not have a place to sell their goods.
Digna Orozco in Spanish told the council that her daughter who once worked for the Fontana Police Department is now a street vendor. She said the ordinance was hurting a minority group.
Remedios Miraljo, a street vendor, in Spanish said he wanted help from the city to get the licenses street vendors need to operate in the city.
Yeni Ruiz, a street vendor, in Spanish said she worked hard to support her family. She said it took her nearly a year to get her permit because she did not have proper guidance. She said her business has a fire extinguisher, a canopy and $5,000 worth of equipment.
Alex Mendez said street vendors “are not criminals. They’re providers.”
He threatened Hispanic political vengeance against Warren and the council. “We’re going to vote you out because the majority here is raza,” Mendez said. “We’re going to vote you out, all of you, the ones that accepted this. Hey, we’ll see you in the unemployment line.”
Derrick Hernandez said of the street vendors, “I can’t imagine what these people are going through. After they came from a different country, they’re just trying to survive. They’re just trying to provide for themselves and they’re trying to provide for their families. I don’t see anybody here as a criminal. I know everybody here has a good heart and I know deep down inside you guys will do the right thing at the end of the day. Just give it a little bit of thought and a little bit of heart.”
Patty D said, “I don’t believe it’s right what you are doing, Acquanetta. Street vendors are not criminals.”
Jocelyn Sida said, “The sleeping giant is awake,” referring to the Hispanic population, and is going to bring itself to a par with the rest of the country by pursuing businesses that aren’t rooted to brick and mortar locations. “They’re here to achieve that American Dream, for their families, for their communities,” she said.
Kristen Aguas said, the policy would “add on to the homeless community.”
Carina Carillo said it was a “lie” for the council to say that the city’s sidewalk vendors could “go legitimate. Why don’t you talk about all the vendors that can’t go legitimate?”
Jose Rosales said that the “drugged out homeless running around our city” constituted a greater threat to Fontana than street vendors.
Blanca Olivares, speaking in Spanish, said Fontana was embarrassing itself by spending $600,000 on street vendor enforcement.
Andrea Gonzalez said she was disturbed “deeply and profoundly by the idea of criminalizing our street vendors who work so hard every day to serve us.”
Estie Ruiz said that the council tolerates “crooked and hostile police, toxic air next to schools, slum lords [and] the destruction of the local environment,” but was claiming it was concerned about health in shutting down sidewalk vendors.
Ivana Ruiz said, “Street vendors are worthy of the same respect and opportunities as everyone else.”
Edin Enamorado, said, “The mayor talks down illegal migration and that we need to learn English. The U.S. does not have an official language. English originated in Europe. As a black person you should know what is law does not mean it is morally right. Slavery was legal at some point. In Fontana, there is no MEHKO [microenterprise home kitchen operation] nor ability to have a restaurant from home, the microenterprise home kitchen, even though the county allows it. And no lunch trucks are allowed in Fontana. SB972 [Senate Bill 972] specifically states only health officials can enforce the retail food code, not a private company from Pleasanton for half a million dollars. Democrats are blue. Republicans are red. Yet, none of them give a damn about you. They lock us up in cages. They don’t give work permits. And if you work for yourself, they still give us shit. Land of the Free? Dumb! And when you finally realize that it’s not, it’ll have you looking like the smart one. We deserve a chance. So, you’ll shove me down because my skin is brown, so you can cut us out of the soil. Imagine! Telling us to go back to where we came from when we are literally standing in the land of our ancestors is like telling a fish to return to the ocean while it’s already swimming in it. Somebody didn’t do their history homework. Set us free! Let us be! Take off the lay! And fuck your taxes.”
Ana Gonzalez said, “$600,000 could have supported 24 new entrepreneurs, street vendors with $25,000 to make their dream of becoming restaurant owners. 55 percent of warehouses are out of compliance, but here we are talking about compliance officers and inspectors.”
Elizabeth Sena said, “The community is saying, ‘Yes,’ to street vendors and this council is saying, ‘No.’”
Tania, whose last name was not given, said, “You are using our money to criminalize street vendors. I don’t think that’s good.”
Gina Lopez, the owner of a flower shop in the city, said, “Our flower shop sales have been hindered by the flower street vendors. We pay an exorbitant amount of money in the city not only for our business but also as a resident. We pay monthly CCR taxes, payroll taxes, workman’s comp, liability insurance, without saying a large dollar amount for the lease. We are losing business.”
At that point, an outburst from the crowd resulted in the room being cleared and a recess being taken. At least three individuals specified by Mayor Warren were banned from returning when the council reconvened.
Alicia Sanchez said street vendors were hardworking and did not represent a threat to the community. She said the city would better use the close to $600,000 slated for sidewalk vendor enforcement for the “homeless or other projects that really need our attention. Do they not matter?”
A speaker identified as Toxico 2024 asked why the city was “focusing on the street vendors.”
An individual identified as Alex Enamorado, not to be confused with the Edin Alex Enamorado who had spoken before, characterized Gina Lopez as one of the city’s “crybabies crying about the flower shop, they worked so hard, and the street vendors are getting the profits now instead of them. This is the system that racist white people set up in North America, the country I’m indigenous to. Capitalism is the system that racist white people set up on this continent and right now the white people are crying about it because the indigenous people just happen to make the flower arrangements a little nicer. You know what I’m saying. It’s just that ancestral heritage within us. Just like the criminal state of Israel, you all can expect resistance and defiance, just like our Palestinian brothers that are being genocided by the criminal state of Israel with our U.S. tax dollars. You are not going to use our tax dollars to finance the criminal looters that want to loot our hardworking indigenous immigrants.”
Claudia Cuevas, speaking in Spanish, said those who identify with the street vendors feel they are being ignored.
Jose Guerra told the council that Fontana was going to “shit” because its members “don’t give a shit about” conditions in the city. “This community is taking a shit because of people like you. Only you can do something about it, you people in power. Hopefully next time, we’ll vote for somebody better than you.”
Luis Ojeda of San Bernardino, a Mexican immigrant who has run for city council in the county seat and who through his organization “We Are The Change” promoted community events involving vendors in that city and has assisted vendors in obtaining licenses to operate, said, “I don’t think that anyone is against the vendors. The thing is we want to do it right.” That provoked several street vendor supporters who jeered at Ojeda. Thereafter, when he objected to that interruption, Mayor Warren intervened, directing that one of the dissenters be removed from the meeting chamber. As Warren sought to return to conducting the hearing, the crowd grew unruly. Members of the audience could be heard bellowing at Warren, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you, Acquanetta!” At that point the hearing was suspended while the chamber was cleared.
When the meeting resumed, Warren said, “Just for the record, I’d like to state that present here right now, is the council members, the city manager and all of his staff and two press people here, too. That’s all that is here. Our number one priority is safety and when people get that heated, we can’t have a decent meeting and we can’t conduct your business. So, it was decided, based on events that were going on, the best thing to do was to clear the room, so we can finish the people’s business. Public communication is over with.”
Without any fanfare, the city council then approved the consent calendar, which contained the second reading of the street vending regulation ordinance. It passed on a 5-to-0 vote.
Meanwhile, Edin Alex Enamorado and his acolytes, after huddling in the Fontana Civic Center parking lot, plotted their next move, and drove northward to congregate around Warren’s home, located in the 14200 block of Lauramore Court. Virtually all of those participating in the impromptu protest were Latino. Enamorado, armed with a bullhorn, began to exhort the crowd and regale the neighborhood with accounts of what a racist community Fontana is. A small contingent of police arrived to monitor the situation, including one undercover police officer who milled through the crowd, but was identified as a policeman when someone spotted the walkie-talkie in his back pocket. Periodically, those present took up a chant of “Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Aquanetta Warren Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Acquanetta Warren Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Aquanetta Warren Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Acquanetta Warren.”
When Warren arrived home, driving her Mercedes Benz at a time approaching 11 p.m., the crowd reacted sharply, but Warren was able to get into her home unscathed.
A police vehicle arrived sometime thereafter, blaring a statement that activity on the street had been declared an unlawful assembly and those who did not leave would be subject to arrest.
A short time later, a SWAT van rolled onto Lauramore Court. No fewer than 7 officers emerged from the van. Announcements about the gathering on Lauramore Court being an unlawful assembly intensified. Officers, identified Enamorado from among the crowd and effectuated his arrest on a violation of Penal Code 415.5(A)(2), disturbing the peace with loud and unreasonable noise. Also taken into custody was one of his associates, referred to as his bodyguard. According to documentation, Enamorado’s arrest took place at 11:26 p.m.
Thereafter, the SWAT team lined up and with nine officers walking abreast, they ushered the crowd off of Lauramore Court.
Enamorado, who had been remanded into the custody of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, was cite released at 8:48 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
-Mark Gutglueck

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