An estimated 100 informal vendors marched to the mayor’s office Wednesday morning to protest police operations at the 9 de Octubre market. Several streets around the alcaldia, including Presidente Borrero and Simon Bolivar, were condoned off from 9 a.m. until shortly after noon to accommodate the protest.
The vendors were angered by a police sweep of the Civic Plaza and streets surrounding the 9 de Octubre market. Several confrontations led to the detention of at least five vendors and the confiscation of produce and other merchandise. Another vendor was taken into custody for allowing two school-aged children to work with her, police said.
According to the Cuenca Citizen Guard, all those detained were later released.
“We demand that that mayor stop the police harassment and return the goods they have stolen from us,” Rosa Calderon, a fruit vendor, told a television reporter. “We have a right to make a living and feed our families, We are not criminals.”
Another vendor who said she pays rent for a stall at 9 de Octubre market said she was glad to see the police move against informal vendors. “Now, they need to come back every day to keep them away,” she said, asking not to be identified. “They are stealing the living of those of us who pay rent and follow the law.”
Early in the protest, several men with boards battered the gate of the municipal parking lot adjacent the Alcaldia on Presidente Borrero but police quickly moved in and the group dispersed. Police said damage to the gate was minor.
Citizen Guard Commander Paúl Delgado said that one of the objectives of the police action was to remove vendors who were operating close to the tram tracks. “Some of them were within two meters of the tracks and this posed a public safety hazard since the tram is in operation,” he said.