A woman identified only as Elsa was arrested last Friday for selling churros in a New York City subway station without a license.
She broke down in tears as she recounted the story of her arrest during a demonstration and press conference on Monday.
The arrest was captured on video and uploaded to Twitter by Sofia Newman. The tweets have since gone viral and generated significant anger among Twitter users.
Elsa, with the help of an interpreter, told the crowd that she had been selling churros at Brooklyn's Broadway Junction station for 3 years.
The mother of five received summons in the past for vending without a permit. But she said police were never as aggressive as they were in this instance.
She added she never had all of her merchandise confiscated during any of those other police interactions.
She broke down while relaying the incident.
"They took everything from me."
Sofia Newman, a New York-based actor and musician, recorded the interaction between Elsa and police. She began filming as officers surrounded Elsa and questioned her.
One person, who was either a plainclothes police officer or an employee of the station, rolled his eyes and said "I know you can speak English" while Elsa attempted to speak for herself.
*videos below contain heavy use of verbal profanity*
She kept trying to speak to one of the cops in Spanish, but the plainclothes cop kept rolling his eyes and saying t… https://t.co/EpQbnzMozj— Sage Newman (@Sage Newman) 1573277858.0
Newman attempted to intervene on Elsa's behalf, but police refused to acknowledge her beyond telling her to step away.
Tonight as I was leaving Broadway Junction, I saw three or four police officers (one of them was either a plainclot… https://t.co/zTZqWMPcoN— Sage Newman (@Sage Newman) 1573277421.0
NYPD Transit stated Elsa was not arrested, but was cuffed while she was removed from the station and her property was "invoiced" as evidence.
Regarding the vendor our officers approached at the Broadway Junction station: She was not arrested, she received a… https://t.co/7FwPjwteKG— NYPD Transit (@NYPD Transit) 1573406041.0
Elsa stated officers took her to a place without surveillance cameras and belittled her.
Many on Twitter were outraged and saddened by the way Elsa was treated.
@SofiaBNewman .@NYCMayor @NYGovCuomo this does not make me feel safer. As a citizen of this city, I find this horri… https://t.co/TKrtIzqArW— Kate Turner (@Kate Turner) 1573322125.0
@SofiaBNewman @RalphScenic This is INFURIATING 😡😡 Do they realize what a financial hardship taking away her prepare… https://t.co/VOYQ4eqLtu— Jess 🌹 (@Jess 🌹) 1573319061.0
@SofiaBNewman Oh man, this is sad, I’ve actually bought churros from this lady, she’s trying to make an honest living.— Hudson River Croc (@Hudson River Croc) 1573321012.0
Several people noted the discrepancy between how those living in poverty and the affluent are treated.
@mayatcontreras @SofiaBNewman @NYCMayor @CoreyinNYC @CMReynoso34 @AlickaASamuel41 Why take her cart -which is her l… https://t.co/BtbQVa7ABX— Lisa Glass (@Lisa Glass) 1573325274.0
@JurassicChuck @SofiaBNewman They’re always so conveniently available to harass and inspect every aspect of poor pe… https://t.co/Z2ojYItWg0— Sangria1106 (@Sangria1106) 1573364789.0
Some spoke in support of small vendors like Elsa and the service they provide to commuters while earning a living.
@SofiaBNewman I see folks selling churros/fruit in subway stations all the time. We commuters on the run appreciate… https://t.co/8sAuiMaZJh— Russell Drew (@Russell Drew) 1573321164.0
Newman's video, and Monday's demonstration, led many people to question NYPD's harassment of subway vendors. They questioned why there was an increased police presence in the subway areas.
Many spoke in support of these vendors, who are just trying to earn a living and often supporting families.
Among these was New York City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Stephen Levin.
This vendor was trying to make a living, like many other NYers across our City. We need to help out street vendor… https://t.co/C9tPu8ib6w— Ydanis Rodriguez (@Ydanis Rodriguez) 1573494220.0
What the hell is going on in this city @NYCMayor @NYGovCuomo @NYPDnews @NYPDTransit? Why is a woman selling churros… https://t.co/st9PaZgKNb— (((Stephen Levin))) 🟣 (@(((Stephen Levin))) 🟣) 1573338018.0
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer was concerned by the increased presence of NYPD in the subways leading to this kind of incident.
Another incident that raises serious questions about the increased police presence in our subways. This kind of en… https://t.co/xe32c6t2Y1— Scott M. Stringer (@Scott M. Stringer) 1573341873.0
NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams addressed the question of public health and safety with CBS New York.
When asked how to protect public health in these situations, he said:
"That's an excellent question. I mean we shouldn't avoid it, but we should apply it equally. So I buy a lot of things from bake sales, I buy things from lemonade stands, and I haven't heard people ask the same question."
Sofia Newman told BuzzFeed News she filed a public information request to obtain the incident report relating to the police interaction with Elsa from the NYPD.
She is also trying to help Elsa get her cart back and pay any associated fees from the summonses.
Now that we're all connected, @VendorPower and I are talking about setting up a GoFundMe. We'd like to help not onl… https://t.co/HJTWKlSPA5— Sage Newman (@Sage Newman) 1573505903.0