July 6th was meant to be a joyous day in Perris, California. The local high school was holding a ceremony for their 2017 graduates, and Juanita Mendez-Medrano thought she could make a few extra bucks “selling flowers and Hawaiian leis” to the proud parents attending the graduation.
The majority of Perris’ 75,000 plus residents are considered working class. 75% are Hispanic and the average income is $10,000 less than that of the rest of California. With nearly 30% of residents living below the federal poverty-level, it’s not unusual to see industrious residents trying to make ends meet by selling flowers or other trinkets at celebratory events. And though Juanita was hardly the only one with this idea, law enforcement in Perris would have none of it.
According to Raw Story, police had already cited 15 other people for not having proper permits when they came upon Juanita and her flowers. Video shows the officer attempting to take the flowers as Juanita held on and protested, “Why don’t you get the gang members? Why Me? Someone who is trying to make and honest living!” The officer can then be seen grabbing Juanita, who is literally half the size of the officer, by her ponytail. He then wraps his arm around her neck and slams her down on the pavement, pushing her head to the ground by her face and sitting atop of her while twisting her arm behind her back to place handcuffs on her.
— M. H Arsalai (@ArsalaiH) July 18, 2017
Juanita was trying to take care of her family by selling some flowers. She wasn’t selling drugs, conning people or ripping anyone off. Now, not only does she not have the extra cash she needed, but she must pay for court expenses. So, supporters of Juanita have set up a fund to help with her defense.
The Riverside Sheriff’s Department is investigating the arrest, but has already defended the officer stating that the video does not show the entire engagement. That may be, but unless Juanita physically attacked the officer, the question remains, is selling flowers without a permit worth assaulting a 52-year-old woman?
No, I don’t believe it is.