Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, August 26, 2007

‘We Want to Sell a Flower’

The flower sellers of Bucharest are protesting Romania’s new regulations of street stalls.


Along with 300 other flower sellers, 68 year old Lucia

marched in Romania’s capital Aug 20.

Photo: Vadim Ghirda, for AP

In tandem with the globalization of the cut flower trade, we see a global clamping down on street vendors of flowers. Is there a connection? ...

From San Francisco, California, to Harare, Zimbabwe, to Vancouver, Canada, municipalities seem to be doing all they can to tax, corral, or outright ban selling flowers on city thoroughfares. The latest “containment” effort is in Bucharest, Romania, where Roma vendors have made a marginal living for generations from selling blooms to passersby. What possible harm could there be in that?

“A Bucharest district mayor, Liviu Negoita, said he wants to limit flower selling to six months a year, and says that flower sellers will be obliged to sell their wares from special kiosks, available in three models.” There are an estimated 700 flower sellers and florists in the capital city (pop. 2 million).

“This is a nightmare,” said Mariana Ionita, 36 who has been selling flowers since she was eight. “I have three children and my father is ill. There are 10 people in my family, and from today we are illegal.” She said her stall was shut down by authorities early Monday (Aug. 20), in sector three, one of the city’s six districts.

Some 300 vendors marched last week in protest. “Since Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1, there have been moves to regulate street trade. Newspapers are no longer sold from stalls on the street, but from special kiosks and the same rules are randomly being applied to florists.

“Waving blue, green, mauve and yellow chrysanthemums outside the city hall, florists yelled: ‘We want to sell a flower, not discrimination!’ A group of Roma from the Association of Florists went into the city hall to register a formal complaint calling on authorities to reverse a decision to close stalls down.”

In Romania, as elsewhere, the limitations on street flower sellers bring old ethnic tensions churning to the surface. Yet we think the problem is wider and even more intractable than racism.  The drive to sweep vendors from the public spaces of cities seems to us part of the overriding trend to control, monitor, and regulate the urban environment. Get thee to a kiosk… this is a non-flower zone.

Gentle citizen, look out. The ink may be drying on another “regulation,” one of your very own.  Do you have a permit to stand on this corner? Where are your documents?

Posted by Julie on 08/26 at 09:35 PM
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