Arrest of Churro Vendors in NYC Sparks More Questions About Over-Policing 

Fhe videos of a churro vendor being arrested by four New York Police Department (NYPD) officers have sparked outrage online.

What You Should Know

In a video posted to Twitter on Friday, four white NYPD officers can be seen surrounding a Latina woman and her churro cart inside the Broadway Junction Subway Station in Brooklyn, New York. The woman recording the video asks why the officers are going to take her churro cart away, and the vendor of the cart appears to be crying.

One of the officers then explains to the woman recording the video, Sofia B. Newman, that it is illegal to sell food inside of a subway station and they had warned the vendor, who only speaks Spanish, “many times” to stop selling food in the station. “Can’t she just go outside and keep her stuff?” Newman asks, to which the officer replies no.

In a second video shot by Newman, the officers can be seen escorting the vendor in handcuffs away from the scene, along with her churro cart. Newman wrote on Twitter that the woman had tried speaking Spanish to the cops, but the man in plainclothes “kept rolling his eyes and saying things like, ‘Are you done?’ and ‘I know you can speak English,’ before escorting her away.

The original video has been watched over 2.6 million times on Twitter and has sparked national outrage. 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, weighed in out about the arrest. “The police shouldn’t be agents of fear and intimidation — and language barriers shouldn’t eliminate someone’s rights,” Castro wrote on Twitter. “She’s not making threats, she’s making a living.”

An NYPD spokesperson said in a statement to The North Star that the unlicensed churro vendor was told by the officers in both English and Spanish “that she would be issued a summons and her property taken as evidence in accordance with procedure.” The statement read that the vendor “refused to cooperate and was briefly handcuffed” and that she had “been issued ten summonses in the last five months for unlicensed vending at the same station.

“The command has received numerous complaints regarding unlicensed vendors at Broadway Junction due to health concerns and individuals interfering with pedestrian flow,” the statement read.

On Monday, another churro vendor was arrested in Queens, New York, at the Myrtle-Wyckoff station, The New York Daily News reported. Police told the newspaper that the officers had approached the woman at 11:40 a.m. and asked her to leave because she did not have a license to sell food, but she reportedly refused. While issuing her a summons, the officers learned she has two warrants for failing to appear in court for selling food without a license, according to the publication.

Why It Matters

These are just two of the many questionable arrests that have occurred inside a New York City subway station in the past month. In October, New York City officials called for an investigation after NYPD officers could be seen brutally punching teens at another subway platform in Brooklyn.

On October 25, a video on social media went viral of a fight that broke out between officers and a group of teenagers at the Jay Street-MetroTech Station in Brooklyn, New York. The NYPD previously told WNBC the officers were dispatched to the subway station because of reports of two large groups of teens fist fighting. The video shows one officer punching a teen in the face while the other officers on the scene are pushing the other teens back. While the officers continue to push some of the other teens away from the incident, another officer can be seen pushing another teen and then hitting him in the face.

It doesn’t stop there. That same day, the NYPD arrested a 19-year-old for jumping a subway turnstile. In a video uploaded to social media, subway riders can be seen panicking inside a subway car as officers, through the subway car’s window, were tapping and pointing their guns at the Black teen on the southbound 4 train. When the doors opened, two officers can be seen tackling the teen, who had his hands raised, as dozens of other officers enter the subway car.

In a previous statement to WNBC, the NYPD said they were responding to “an alert for a male with a gun.” The teen, who has been identified as Adrian Napier, fled from police when they approached him and jumped a turnstile. He did not have a gun, the police told the news station.

What Can Be Done

Carmen Perez, the CEO and President of The Gathering for Justice, told TNS after seeing the video of the churro vendor being arrested, she found it sad that NYC communities are being overpoliced and that the vendor was being mocked for speaking in Spanish. “This woman was targeted,” Perez said. “She didn’t need four officers to approach her.” She also noted that this is a case of broken window policing, stating that bringing more officers into Brown and Black communities will not bring safety.

In September, the MTA announced it would hire an additional 500 transit officers to the 2,500 officers working on subway platforms, The New York Times previously reported.

This would expand the police force by 20 percent and would cost the city more than $50 million a year. However, as of October, transit crime is down 3.7 percent compared to 2018, according to NYPD crime statistics.

While discussing the arrest of the churro vendor, Perez said there is an expectation of the police to protect the communities they serve.

“There is an expectation that we have of our police officers to protect us and arresting the woman was not the way to do it,” said Perez. “She did not deserve to be put in handcuffs. She did not deserve to be humiliated. She did not deserve the type of disrespect that she was met with by these police officers.”

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