Street vendors: Mayor’s decision ‘put us out of work’

‘Hostage is the word. They’re being held hostage for sure.’


  • Max Blau
  • Atlanta vendors protest outside City Hall

Atlanta’s street vendors who were told to pack up their goods by city officials earlier this year staged another round of protests outside City Hall today to demand they be allowed to sell items on the city’s sidewalks.

Dozens of supporters called on Mayor Kasim Reed to revamp city laws currently prohibiting vendors from selling or displaying goods on public sidewalks.

Larry Miller, president of the Atlanta Vendors Association, tells CL that he wants the mayor to sign an executive order “to put vendors back to work immediately.”

“I’ve been vending in the city for over 30 years and this is the first time any mayor has shut down public property vending,” Miller says. “It’s affected households, children, and also disabled veterans, the handicapped, and blind people who vend every day in the city. They shut them down without due process or our Fourteenth Amendment right. It’s been violated, but no one has stepped up to make the mayor answer for it. We’re here to try and get the answers today.”

Reed’s office ordered Atlanta Police to shut down vendors prior to the Final Four in March - an effort that some critics claim was done to clean up the city’s streets before the massive sports event. The move followed a Fulton County judge’s decision last December to throw out a controversial contract from 2009 that required vendors to lease private kiosks for up to $1,450 per month - up from $250 per year for a vending license on public property. No new vending ordinance has been crafted, which led Reed to ban all vending on public property for the time being.

Since then, street vendors have continued to rally outside City Hall and during Atlanta City Council meetings.

Miller told CL that vendors have recently gained support from City Council’s public safety committee, which he says has signed off on a public vending proposal. He hopes that other councilmembers will stand by their efforts, but thinks that it could take the election of another mayor in this November’s municipal elections to bring about change. For now, MIller is uncertain whether anything will happen given the way, he says, that Reed has commandeered the City Council’s power.

“‘Hostage’ is the word,” says Miller. “They’re being held hostage, for sure.”

Reed spokesman Anne Torres said the mayor’s office can’t respond to Miller’s remarks due to pending litigation, but she briefly touched on the city’s next steps regarding the issue.

“The city plans to establish a vending program that is appropriate for a city of our size and stature and we expect to implement it by the end of the year,” Torres tells CL.

This story has been updated to include additional information.