Question the law, not the child

Erin Austin, who recently lost her job, was trying to teach her daughter, Jordan, a valuable lesson about entrepreneurship. Instead, their neighbor called the police.

Austin had agreed to take Jordan on the trip they had planned to Disneyland if she could raise enough money. Jordan decided to sell cold water bottles outside her San Francisco apartment — which sits across from AT&T Stadium — on game day.

As Jordan sold water to thirsty passersby, she was approached by neighbor Alison Ettel. Ettel asked the girl whether she had a permit, which she didn’t. A heated exchange between Austin and Ettel took place before Ettel threatened to call the police. In a video that has since gone viral, Ettel appears to be on the phone with police, charging that the little girl was “illegally selling water without a permit.”

“An 8-year-old selling water in front of her apartment building where she’s lived her whole life is NOT a reason to call the police,” Austin posted on Instagram.

Indeed, threatening a girl and her mother for selling water is beyond parody. Ettel complained that the girl was loud but, as Ettel and Austin both reside across the street from a large stadium, this is a questionable excuse.

Many have suggested that Ettel’s actions were racist in nature. Indeed, last year, African-American teens were handcuffed in Washington, D.C., for selling water on the National Mall without a permit.

There is also a broader legal side to this issue. Across the country, police are shutting down children’s lemonade stands. Most recently, officers shut down one in Colorado due to a lack of permit; the kids were raising money for charity. When people think to call police on children selling drinks, we ought to question our laws and the mindset they create.

The problem transcends age. Various cities prohibit food trucks from operating within a certain radius of restaurants — as much as 500 feet. Adults cannot become florists, hair-braiders, taxi drivers or even fortunetellers without government permission.

One in four Americans now needs a license in order to work. In the 1950s, that number was one in 20. Too many of these regulations have nothing to do with health and safety and everything to do with protecting industry insiders.

“There ought to be a law!” shouts the noble community leader to the crowd. Someone should ask him, “Ought there?”


Image credit: Tashatuvango

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