By Ava Dunville
My name is Ava Dunville and I’m a very concerned resident of South Pasadena. Sunday, I was in attendance of the Counter Protest taking place on Mission and Fair Oaks. I was there exercising my first amendment right. It was very important to me that the protest stay peaceful on both sides. I had my car parked on the South West corner of the intersection in front of the new Starbucks and Chipotle.
Some of my friends and peers choose to join me in this area as we had created somewhat of a safer, less hostile place to protest and speak freely. However, throughout my time at the protest I moved about to different corners. I went over the Rite Aid corner at one point during the day. While there, I observed several transactions and the selling of Donald Trump Merchandise.
There were two red tents set up each with a card table under. They had, and were selling; T-shirt, hats, signs etc. From what I gathered there appeared to be two main solicitors of these items. There was one man and one woman. The female was wearing a Donald Trump apron and the man had a checkered button down shirt on. The intent of the vendors was very evident. They were there to sell merchandise.
My concern began when I thought back to some of my own fundraisers. I’m involved in several community organizations that raise money for various non-profits. Girl Scouts is required to acquire permits to sell cookies. A club I am part of at South Pasadena High School, TASSEL, would need to obtain permits if we wanted to set up a both on the corner of Mission and Fair Oaks. I am inquiring about the Trump vendors permits. As of now, I am under the impression that they did not have one.
The first step I took to find out if these sellers had the needed permits was through the South Pasadena Non-Emergency line phone number. The operator that I spoke with told me that this was a matter I would need to take up with the Code Enforcement Department who was out of office at the time of this call. He then gave me the Code Enforcement phone number and email. I would like to add that this information I was given is incorrect. The operator telling me that this complaint should be directed to Code Enforcement is wrong.
I am hoping that some training in terms of complaint directions and different South Pasadena Department responsibilities can be clarified with this city employee. On the city’s website under the “Government” tab and subsection “Community Improvements and Code Enforcement” there is a bolded title called: Matter Not Addressed By Code Enforcement. One of the bullet points under this is “Unlicensed Solicitors.” This list was also able to provide me with the two departments that are actually responsible for this.
I was not surprised to see that it was in fact the Department of Finance and, even less of a surprise, The Police Department that was supposed to handle this type of complaint. The Finance Department was out of office at the time of this incident considering City Hall hours. That leaves the responsibility of dealing with unlicensed solicitation to the Police Department.
After calling the non-emergency line and receiving inaccurate information, I decided to speak with a nearby Police Officer. I walked up to a parked Police vehicle across the street from Gus’s BBQ on Fair Oaks. I asked about the needed permit and the officer was absolutely no help. The officer had just finished speaking with a member of the Trump “Freedom Rally South Pasadena” Protest and I overheard him specify that he was there to protect ‘them’, meaning the Trump Protestors. As I was holding my Biden 2020 sign, I was talked to in a condescending manner and received no helpful information from the Police Officer on duty. I was told that this was not something he could help me with and there was no way to “fix” the situation according to him.
I then decided to speak with a different officer. I walked to City Hall and found another Police car. This time there were two officers who got out of the car and spoke with me. They also told me there was nothing they could do. They said the city was closed and this was out of their control. This left me very, very confused as the Police Department is who I should have been able to turn to according to the South Pasadena Website. Is the website incorrect? Are our city’s officers misinformed of their duties?
If my complaint had been taken seriously by those who were supposed to listen, an unfortunate following chain of events may not have occurred. If the vendor had been forced to pack up due to lack of permit, the violent incident that later occurred COULD have been prevented.
The South Pasadena Police Department failed it’s citizens Sunday night.
From the lack of professionalism to the inability to help, and be proactive the SPPD once again, showed bias. It’s very unfortunate that this has become a recurring theme. I spoke with Officer Zamora that night when giving my statement. He too told me, even after the incident, that it was not the job of the police to check the vendor’s permits.
I would really like to know the city’s procedure for enforcing unlicensed solicitors or street vendors during non-city business hours. What happens on Holidays and weekends?
Additionally, one of the Officers I spoke to told me that the vendor would not even be required to have their permit on them at their given selling time and stand so there was absolutely no way to tell or enforce code. In contrast, City Code states that any vendor must have a valid permit on them at all times. Is there anything that would prohibit a South Pasadena Police Officer from asking a vendor or seller for proof of a valid permit to sell merchandise on the weekend? In the instance that there is some rule which prohibits this, how can the city ever enforce illegal selling on a street corner on a weekend? I am very interested in learning about the procedure because unfortunately, not a single officer or city employee, was able to inform me of it that night.
This makes me think that some re-training might be necessary for the SPPD. This is especially important because the incident that happened toward the last part of the evening was violent and a community member was assaulted. Many of the “Freedom Rally South Pasadena” members were not residents or local community members.
I would hope our Police Department would take care of everyone and prioritize safety. Considering a 16 year old girl was assaulted, I feel as though this was not the case Sunday night. I spoke with her and she felt as though her statement was not being taken seriously. I was a witness to the incident and can confidently say I felt the same way. This, again, goes back to a lack of professionalism and demonstration of bias. Some serious restructuring and re-training is much needed within the South Pasadena Police Department.
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