When cops aren’t busy murdering people of colour, they’re busy mounting sting operations to harass them out of existence. All that blue service, so much to be proud of, and not to leave our so-called justice system out of things, piling on charges and punishments into a great big pile, just the sort of thing a single mother of six can handle without blinking. Right.
A single mother could face three years in jail in California for selling homemade ceviche and chicken stuffed fried avocado on Facebook after law enforcement conducted an undercover operation and accused her of running a food business without a permit.
The story of Mariza Ruelas’ charges has gone viral since the Stockton woman spoke out about police targeting her in an online investigation of a local Facebook group that members used to share recipes, organize potlucks and sell dishes.
The misdemeanor charges of “operating a food facility without a valid permit” and “engaging in business without a permit to sell” have drawn widespread criticisms of California police and health inspectors and raise fresh questions about how law enforcement agencies use social media for surveillance.
Ruelas said she helped run the 209 Food Spot group on Facebook, which is named after Stockton’s area code.
In December, someone who contacted her through the group asking for ceviche turned out to be an undercover San Joaquin county investigator who conducted a “sting” on behalf of the district attorney’s office.
She and five other users of the page faced citations for two misdemeanors, but Ruelas was the only one to refuse to sign a plea deal. She said she would be happy to do community service and pay a fine, but she didn’t want a misdemeanor on her record.
San Joaquin County deputy district attorney Kelly McDaniel told the Guardian that Ruelas used the page to sell food after her initial arraignment, resulting in a total of four counts that add up to a maximum of three years and a possible fine of more than $10,000.
Ruelas said she sold her signature chicken stuffed fried avocado dish to try and raise money for her legal costs.
That looks pretty tasty to me. This was a local thing, not someone who was out to get rich, it was about building community, sharing food, and recouping the costs a bit. I know Stockton, or I used to. It’s a place widely avoided by those who don’t have reason to be there or stay, it’s a dangerous place. Lots of crime. I guess it’s much better to spend all that tax money and resources on hunting down community minded women. Great job, Stockton cops!
Full story here.
Paul Durrant says
I’m not sure we have the whole story here. If sales were an occasional thing, more a favour among friends, then this is clearly overreacting.
But if this was a source of income, i.e. a business, then it’s right to shut it down and prosecute. People selling cooked meals to the public DO need to be inspected and comply with food safety laws.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
Well, yes. Food sales should really be regulated. BUT how is throwing that woman in jail, dumping her kids in foster care and ruining a lot of lives over this helping anybody?
Also, given the crap big food business can get away with in the USA (one of the main contentions between pro and anti TTiP people), it’s ridiculous. It’S nothing but punishing poor people for being poor.
Paul Durrant says
I agree that prison is a disproportionate punishment, and part of the insane plea-bargaining ‘justice’ system in the US.
Marcus Ranum says
Yet the cops sell protection, uh, excuse me, “collecting for the police society fund” by phone and door to door. It’s hard telling a state trooper who’s standing on your porch “I’m not donating because I don’t like cops” but I have managed, and they still keep coming.