Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune
“I’m alive by a miracle”: Street vendor community marches in solidarity with elotero Bililfo Fernandez
Fernandez was attacked and robbed at gunpoint on Monday while selling corn.
July 3, 2020
Bililfo Fernandez, in a royal blue Dodgers mask stood ready to march with a crowd gathered early on the morning of Thursday, July 2 on the corner of 14th and Locust as they prepared to take to the streets of Long Beach, with signs calling for justice steady in their hands.
The march was in support of Fernandez, a street vendor who was assaulted and robbed by two individuals at gunpoint in the Washington neighborhood of Long Beach on Monday, June 29.
“What I want is for the men who assaulted me to be apprehended, Fernandez said in Spanish, “This time around it happened to me, but tomorrow it can happen to others […] I don’t want others to suffer and go through what I went through […] I’m alive by a miracle.”
“On Monday, like any other day I went to work, everything was going well,” Fernandez said in a statement to the Signal Tribune.
He described the moment where, as he was helping two customers, the two suspects approached and ordered elotes or corn on the cob.
“I gave them [what they ordered] I never thought that they were going to do anything to me, once I gave them the corn, they drew a gun on me and asked for the money” Fernandez said.
The two customers who had been nearby told the vendor that they wanted to help but they were unable because the suspects pointed a gun at them as well. “We couldn’t do anything,” Fernandez recounted their words. “We’re sorry.”
Fernandez stated that he was in the hospital for two days, his injuries visible on his nose and face and once he removed his royal blue cap, on his head.
“I ran, but they got to me and hit me,” Fernandez said of the blows he received with a handgun. “I lost consciousness for a couple of minutes and that’s why we want justice. We want [the suspects] to be found and pay for what they are doing, they don’t deserve to be on the streets.”
When the police and paramedics arrived, Fernandez said he wasn’t able to recall his own phone number until minutes later.
He decided to go to the hospital on his own later that day Fernandez stated, in part because he still had his belongings with him and waited until he was able to return them home to be taken by his daughter.
The street vendor explained that approximately $100-$120 dollars were robbed in addition to his phone.
“My daughter had just gifted me and my wife phones on May 10,” Fernandez said to those gathered.
“Right now, I feel a little better,” Fernandez said in a statement to the Signal Tribune. “Sometimes when I want to get up fast, I do get light headed but I don’t know if it’s due to the medicine or the hits [I sustained].”
Fernandez stated that he will not return to work for another two weeks as recommended by his doctor.
“I think I will return to work, but now I’ll be scared,” the vendor said while holding his protest sign. “It won’t be like before where I went out happily. I know a lot of people and I talk to them, but now, I don’t know how I’ll feel the first day I’m out there again.”
Moments later, the march made its way down Pine Avenue with vehicles honking in support and residents making their way out of their homes to give messages of support.
A brief stop was made where other street vendors also marching distributed water, soda or juice to those marching.
A chorus of “No justice, no peace” and “La gente unida, jamas sera vencida” (“the people united will never be defeated”) reverberated through the streets, stopping the occasional outdoor diner in their tracks for a glance.
The march made a brief stop at the Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse where Samy Rosales, Fernandez’s longtime neighbor led those gathered in a chant.
“What do we want?” “Justice!” “When do we want it?” “Now,” the crowd responded.
Outside the courthouse, Rosales asked for unity. On the days leading up to the march, anti-Black comments quickly emerged on social media once it was known the suspects were Black. Rosales doesn’t want this incident to be blamed on the entire Black community.
It’s crazy how people in the comments are using this terrible incident as an excuse to show their true racist selves and generalizing all black people. Probably following in their parents racist ways. I hope these people are found and arrested tho! Justice for this man!!
— Cosmic💫Cranberry (@CosmicNaas) July 1, 2020
“Personally, I’m Mexican, my parents are from Mexico, I say that it is not the time to do that right now,” Rosales said in a statement to the Signal Tribune. “I feel like me, I have marched for Black Lives Matter, I was frontline, signing petitions, doing everything that we could possibly do because I feel like the Black Lives Matter movement is not just for Black lives.
He continued, “They represent all minorities at this point, they represent all the injustice that we go through in this community […] so I say to all my people, Hispanics, all minorities, Black people, Hispanics, everybody, that this is not the time, we shouldn’t blame one another just because a few individuals did something bad, [it] doesn’t necessarily make the entire race bad. We’re here, we’re marching for unity, we should not be dividing each other because of our race or anything, we should all be together and fighting for the same goal, which is for a peaceful community.”
One last stop was made at the Long Beach City Hall, where another street vendor, Leticia Fernandez, detailed her own robbery years earlier.
“They told me they wanted all of my money and put a gun to my head,” she said.“You don’t think about what’s going to happen to you, I gave them my money and started to run, any other robber would have shot me, that person was wearing a mask, so I didn’t see his face. I felt terror,” the woman said. She left her cart at the scene and didn’t look back.
After forming half a circle, the marchers continued chanting as an air horn, characteristic of street vendors, blew in the background.
A GoFundMe that had been created by Fernandez’s daughter, Erika Fernandez, has also raised a total of $85,335 as of publication.