Hotline set up after allegations of vendor harassment

Vendors hope city will amend laws that inhibit sales

HIALEAH, Fla. - You see them dodging cars, selling everything from flowers to food to make their living. With Mother's Day just around the corner, vendors in Hialeah are worried the city's rules will negatively affect sales.

That's why a hotline is being set up to make sure these vendors get to make a sale.

Norma Wequiera sells roses from her van, but city rules keep her from opening her van doors and displaying more product than she can carry.

That's because it's illegal in Hialeah for vendors to display their merchandise, and it's also illegal for them to stay in one location.

Wequiera says she's been selling from the same spot for 10 years, with permission from the property owner.

"If we're in one place, we build clientele," she said. "And those clients, on that date, will look for us."

Attorney Claudia Murray is with the The Institute for Justice. That organization and the Florida Association of Vendors sued Hialeah, hoping to change the laws.

In January, the city repealed one rule that kept vendors further than 300 feet away from certain businesses. But the other rules remained. On Valentines Day, Murray says there was a major crackdown.

"Police have taken to harassing vendors and making it impossible for them to earn an honest living," she said.

There are also allegations that police are kicking vendors off state roads by enforcing a Florida statute the institute says it's unconstitutional. The lawsuit was amended to include this.

In January, Local 10 spoke to Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez. He said enforcing these rules are the right thing for everyone.

"This city has been very lenient and I will repeat that over and over again - very lenient with vendors because we are a blue collar city," he said. "We are proud of that."

Local 10 contacted the mayor and city attorney for comment on the amended lawsuit - as well as the allegations of police harassment - but we have yet to hear back from them.

The Institute for Justice also implemented a hotline for vendors to report harassment or unfair enforcement.

That number is, 305-733-5815.