American Dream Denied by Berkeley Government Bureaucrats

I recently read about a case in Berkeley where a hot dog vendor just trying to earn a few dollars was manhandled by city government.

Rigoberto “Beto” Matias was selling bacon-wrapped hotdogs outside a Cal football game.

A police officer approached Beto and started questioning him.  A customer quickly pulled out his cellphone and started recording the incident.

Beto told KPIX 5 through an interpreter that, “I didn’t do anything wrong.  I was just trying to make a living.”

What was his crime?  Not paying his tithe to Berkeley’s city government.

The video shows the officer aggressively taking Matias’ wallet and seizing $60 from him – citing his lack of a permit as justification for this seizure.

Once posted online, the video went viral.

Beto said, ““I thought he was going to arrest me and that’s why I got scared.”

When I saw this video, I thought of former Assemblyman Brian Jones and his famous tag line — Are you kidding me?

In my view, Beto embodies the American dream.  He is a hard-working Latino man trying to earn a living through his hot dog stand rather than seeking a government handout.  Berkeley should be celebrating Beto, not shutting him down.

Yet, on a campus that promotes advancement for California’s Latinos and where free-enterprise is more often condemned then celebrated – government bureaucrats went out of their way to squash the dreams of a Latino businessman.

Yes, we want to make sure that food vendors follow safe practices with the handling and preparation of the food we buy.  But that’s not what was at play here.

A man dared to start a business and earn a living without the approval of government – and government used heavy-handed force to shut him down.  That’s just wrong.  Government at every level should not stand in the way of people seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families as they did in this case.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  The customer who took the cell phone video – Martin Flores – started an online fundraising campaign that raised more than $87,000.  This money will go toward Rigoberto’s legal fees and to buy him a proper food truck.

Our country was built on the spirit of hard-work and entrepreneurship embodied by men like Beto who took risks and started their own businesses and yearned for their chance at the American dream.

I, for one, can’t wait to line up and buy one of Beto’s bacon-wrapped hot dogs when his new food truck business is up and running soon.

Tim Anaya is communications director for Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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