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Taking advantage of the capital's charm, street vendors embark on protests, tours - Cronkite News

Allen Reed sold water and ice cream outside the Lincoln Memorial on a hot day and said business was going well. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Sean Bartootie talks to a customer at a souvenir shop on 15th Avenue and New York Avenue NW, just half a block from the White House. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Allen Reed talked to a customer near the Lincoln Memorial and said he could make $1,100 on a good day serving thirsty tourists on a hot day. Photo)

Larry Mike sells hats, sunglasses and more from his backpack outside the National Archives. Like other vendors in town, he still sells a lot of Trump and MAGA merchandise. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Allen Reed has a license to sell water in the square in front of the Lincoln Memorial, one of Washington’s busiest tourist destinations. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Sean Bartooty’s stand near the White House caters for everything from Trump and Biden merchandise to hats and banners promoting Pride and MAGA.(Photo by Neetish Basnet/Crunkite News) )

Shawn Bartuti has been a vendor for 25 years, the last three working in the immediate vicinity of the White House. He said business was generally good, but “when marches and things of that nature come along, it gets really good.” (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Washington – Political rallies here almost always feature autographs, speeches and chants. Fierce disputes often erupt between factions. Sometimes I sing, sometimes I pray.

And in Washington’s hot summer months, it’s almost always to the cheery, repetitive chime of an ice cream truck.

When a political movement comes to Washington, whether it’s selling ice-cold bottled water from coolers in the summer or hawking hats and T-shirts in the winter, it inevitably finds an army of local vendors who take advantage of protesters’ needs. You will be chased. For food, water and souvenirs.

Joseph Pirelli, chief legal officer at Mission Driven Finance, said that Washington has a “famous hot dog stand, a halal cart and a taco truck in Los Angeles,” where politicians and ordinary tourists alike. There are stalls for

“DC is unique, isn’t it? It’s the center of so many protests and rallies,” Pirelli said. It has a very long history of taking advantage and being able to not only make some money in the presence of all those people, but (also) support them…for whatever reason they happen to be in town.

And 2022 has a lot in store for you.

In addition to the fact that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions meant a return to normal tourism, this year saw marchers protesting federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates and nurses demanding better working conditions. was seen. Both sides took to the streets as the March for Our Lives took place again to protest another mass shooting and the Supreme Court considered a lawsuit leading to overturning abortion rights.

Phoenix resident Eman Massoud was at a gun control march in Washington this summer. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Phoenix resident Eman Massoud was in Washington this summer for marches, protests and lobbying in support of gun control measures taking place through Congress. One June morning, she was standing on the lawn in the shadow of the Capitol, listening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with hundreds of other activists.

“I lobbied in front of the Arizona State Capitol,” Masood, who was in Washington for the first time, said, “But this feels completely different. The environment is very stimulating.”

It’s exciting, but as Massoud learned, Washington’s weather can also be overwhelming.

“Put on some good shoes, because we’re exploring DC after the rally,” she said. “So shoes, sunscreen and hydration.”

All of these are readily available from street vendors who have trucks, carts and tables. Or maybe you work from a backpack or cooler while chasing a crowd.

“They are savvy businessmen who take advantage of opportunities with agility,” said Pirelli, who has authored several academic papers examining the economics and history of street vendors. “But they also help in getting people to come and protest by providing things like food and water on hot days.”

There are 442 approved street vending machines in the city, according to district government data, but almost half of them are within the blocks of the National Mall and White House, the site of most protests and rallies.

Shawn Bartuti has been a DC street vendor for 25 years, spending the last three years at the corner of New York Avenue and 15th Street NW, right next to the White House.

“But when marches and things of that nature come along, it can also be really good,” Baltuti said. “It’s fine, uncle.”

Bartuti caters to tourists’ political whims. His cart is ready with Donald his Trump flag and his MAGA hat. Baltuti is a Republican, but that’s not the main reason his merchandise weighs heavily on the former president, and Vice President Kamala Harris’ merchandise includes only a few.

“For one thing, this is business. And second, nobody buys[President Joe]Biden,” Bartuti said. “Have you ever walked down the street? Have you seen someone with a Biden hat? Anyone with a Biden bag? No one can see you.”

A 2018 report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that the average street vending business in a big city can expect to make about $26,000 a year in profits.

“Business is good,” said Allen Reid, who sells water bottles in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “College wasn’t for me. You’re making money at the end of the day. ”

In Washington, street vendors need a permit to set up shop. A vendor may apply for a license to operate at one of 76 permitted stationary road sales sites and 14 permitted sales locations within various national parks.

But Pirelli said obtaining a street vending license is “cumbersome, complicated and expensive.”

“The majority of people who are street vendors in DC don’t have a license,” he said. “As a result, people deal with police brawls, running from them, sometimes appearing, having to pay a ticket to avoid going to court, etc. And that’s built into their business costs.” It is.”

According to the district vending handbook, the cost to obtain a two-year vendor license ranges from $337 to $447, which is on top of the $600 annual site permit.

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However, these costs do not stop qualified leads. He recently added a second cooler, the first employee and his prices are unregulated. The hotter it gets, the higher his “surge price.”

Lydia Detero and a group of Baltimore friends were outside the White House on Sunday in July holding a sign supporting abortion rights.As residents of nearby cities, they brought their own water this time. I’m a regular DC protester. But DeTello said she appreciates the presence of street vendors selling water bottles in Lafayette Square.

“It’s nice to know that DC locals are close by and just sell water bottles,” she said. “It’s July, so it’s a hot day, so it helps. Every little thing, including staying hydrated, supports movement.”

Pirelli said sellers serve other purposes besides continuing to fuel protests.

“They are important members of the community and watch the streets,” he said. “They know what’s going on and are often the first to see problems happening on the streets to respond to problems on the streets. It contributes a lot to our vitality.”

But for vendors, it’s not the cause they stand for as the cash it brings. It’s not uncommon to see a vendor sell a product to support one issue and speak out against it the next day.

Business is going well, but Baltuti says his merchandise is in hot water with a few tourists with different perspectives. He recalled that when Trump was in office, “they still had a guy in front of the park and they were just ‘f Trump’ all day long. always. “

But for him it’s part of the business. and part of America.

“I mean, that’s what America is all about,” he said. “Everyone should have the freedom of speech and be able to believe any political opponent they want to believe.”