Rene Folena was identified as the non-profit worker dubbed “Permit Betty” after video of her interactions with a San Francisco street vendor went viral.
It’s the latest case of a woman being accused of mishandling an interaction with non-white people who are doing everyday things. Folena also goes by the name Rene Baker-Folena. You can watch the video below. However, in this case, Folena, 53, has defended herself in interviews, saying she wasn’t calling the police on the vendor, but she was fired from her job after the video exploded on the Internet anyway.
“I was trying to help her,” Baker-Folena said to KTVU-TV. “I never told her she had to leave. I never said, ‘You can’t sell here.’ I was on the phone with one of the community guides to come and assist her.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Man Filming ‘Permit Betty’ Said He Wanted the Video to Go Viral
Derrick Miguel Perryman, a Mississippi man now living in San Francisco, first posted the video on Facebook, where it has more than 1.2 million views. It shows the woman now identified as Rene Folena walking by a vendor’s stand in the street while talking on the phone. Perryman wrote on Facebook that he studied criminal justice.
“Hi, Permit Betty. You got another Permit Betty here, everybody. Let’s get her viral also,” the man on the video says.
“Huh?” the woman says when she is called Permit Betty in the video.
“She’s gotta mess with people just trying to make a living,” he claims, and the woman responds that people need to be able to walk on sidewalks.
When he says, “let her go viral” again, she smiles and waves to the camera and says, “Hi everybody.” She also says, “just trying to make sure everybody has an opportunity.”
2. Folena Says She Was Calling a Community Guide to Help the Vendor, Not the Police
Reporter Justine Waldman wrote on Twitter that she spoke to Permit Betty. “I spoke with the woman in the viral #PermitBetty video,” she wrote. “She tells me she was not on the phone with police. She was getting the vendor help to get the proper permit. Rene Folena says she was fired from her job – for doing her job as a community out-reach worker.”
Folena told KRON 4 that she was calling “a community guide at her job to come and check on the vendor to help get the woman a one-day permit.” She added that she is half Mexican and half Irish and is not racist.
She is a grandmother who says the video doesn’t show the whole story, the television station reported, quoting her as saying, “I am sorry that I was doing my job by calling some to come over and help her. I am sorry that I did not make the phone call myself and give her the information.”
Vendors in the area are required to have selling permits.
3. Folena Worked for a Community Group That Tries to Make the City More Welcoming & Was Interviewed Recently About Homelessness
According to KRON4, Folena worked for Streetplus, “a community group that contracts with the Yerba Buena Community Benefit district which aims to make the city a more welcoming place.”
The Yerba Buena Community Benefit District wrote on Facebook, “An employee of a service provider misrepresented the YBCBD on Wednesday. That individual no longer works on behalf of the district. This individual was not a direct employee of the YBCBD. However, we take responsibility for anyone who works on our behalf. Everyone associated with the YBCBD is expected to follow our policies and adhere to our values of inclusivity and of treating people with compassion, respect and dignity.”
The group is a non-profit organization in San Francisco.
According to KTVU-TV, the television station had just interviewed Folena about homelessness in coverage tied to Mayor London Breed’s inauguration before the video was taken. “The people she needs to talk to are the people paying taxes and have businesses because they’re tired of having to clean up after them,” she said, according to the television station, which reported that she said Streetplus had suspended her for “talking to the media.”
4. Folena Is Single & Worked as a Production Assistant at a Theater
On Facebook, Folena wrote that she “works at Streetplus” and “worked at Mjm Management Group.” She writes that she was a former Production Assistant at Uptown Theatre Napa and “Former Whatever they want me to do at Praetorian Security and Event Staffing.”
She also wrote that she “worked at The Northern California Renaissance Faire” and “worked at Str8 Shooters Bar.” She went to Casa Roble Fundamental High School, is single, and is from Corona, California. Her photos mostly show her with family and friends.
Her page likes include LivePD, Stunning Videos, the East Brunswick Police Department, the Other 98% (which has an “abolish ICE” profile picture), “I am Upset” fictional character, and a page devoted to military veterans.
5. Folena Also Worked in Security & as a Park Guide
Folena’s LinkedIn page says she’s also a security officer at “Security Intelligence Specialist Training Facility,” a position she assumed in 2015. “Provide security for our clients at venues in and around San Francisco,” she wrote.
As a dispatcher for the management group, she wrote that she “worked as a dispatcher, park guide , community guide & park facilitator for MJM MANAGEMENT.”
Folena’s case is but the latest video to go viral. Most recently two women dubbed Permit Patty and BBQ Becky were in the news; the first woman, Alison Ettel, was recorded trying to stop an 8-year-old girl from selling water outside her home in San Francisco. The second, Jennifer Schulte, called the police to report a group of black people who were barbecuing in an Oakland park.
Stephanie Sebby-Strempel, a former skincare consultant from South Carolina, is accused of assaulting an African-American boy during a tirade at a swimming pool while using racial slurs and allegedly telling the boy and his friends to “get out.” She’s been nicknamed “Pool Patrol Paula” on the Internet.