The UCR community rallies behind the street vendor who was unjustly removed from campus

MECHA hosts a fruit sell out for the vendor and condemns Vice Chancellor Bomotti.

A video that went viral two weeks ago featuring a street vendor being kicked off of UC Riverside campus has led the campus community to rally in support of the woman affected. In the video, which was mainly reposted through TikTok and Instagram, UCR Vice Chancellor of Planning, Budget and Administration, Gerry Bomotti, is seen telling a woman fruit vendor that she must leave the campus and that she is not permitted to sell there. The video, captured by a UCR student, resulted in an uproar of backlash from several campus organizations and has garnered support for the vendor who shall remain unnamed to protect her identity.

Following the viral video, a statement was released by MECHA de UCR condemning the incident and requesting an apology from Vice Chancellor Bomotti. Students also went to his office asking why he removed the vendor. Although the campus is public property and the vendor did have a permit, they were not authorized by the school resulting in the request to leave. 

Many students, however, felt that her removal was an attack on the Latine community and was uncalled for as she was not harming anyone, but simply trying to support herself and her family. Vice Chancellor Bomotti has not yet responded to the statement or apologized for his actions. 

“It’s enraging and annoying. Admin knows we’re out here, we’re literally outside of Hinderaker Hall. It’s not right that they’re just brushing this off,” said Gabriel Astilleros, a 3rd-year sociology law and society and Spanish major, as well as a member of MECHA. 

Other similar incidents have occurred in Riverside with the city also previously making a post criticizing street vendors claiming that their services are unclean. In years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, food trucks and vendors were commonly seen around campus and utilized by students and staff. Today it is rare to see any vendors at UCR, instead they are further out around the nearby shopping centers and less accessible to those on campus. 

On Wednesday April 19, MECHA organized a fruit sell out for the vendor starting at 11 A.M. until the vendor sold out. A long line was seen with about 80 to 100 students constantly present. The original woman vendor, along with another cart operated by a man, were present to meet the high demand. Speaking to students in line, many waited an hour to an hour and a half, but did not mind knowing the cause was important and that their wait would be worthwhile. 

Campus groups including MECHA, PODER, Baile folklórico, Latino Union, Basic Needs, Greek life and the general student body were all present to back the street vendor. 

“We came to support our local Riverside vendors. I’m from LA and I’m used to seeing vendors and supporting them,” said 4th-year psychology major and Marketing Chair for Latino Union, Valeria Alvarado Flores. 

“I was shocked by the video and that this happened at UCR. I’ve always felt that we were diverse and seeing the vendor kicked out in a disrespectful way was eerie. I came to show support and that the community stands together.”  

Throughout the event, Vice Chancellor Bomotti, nor anyone else from campus administration or security, came out to speak to the vendor or those present. Since then, the original vendor and others have remained around the campus and have no longer been asked to leave. The amount of love and gratitude that the campus community has shown the vendor and others from similar backgrounds and experiences is heartwarming and a message to administration that incidents like this will not be taken lightly.