So yeah, a lot of people got arrested over the weekend as Occupy Wall Street took the nation and press by storm. Of the 74 people arrested in New York on Saturday, 42 were locked up in Times Square and another 5 were arrested for wearing masks. However, another 24 were arrested at a Greenwich Village Citibank for “criminal trespassing.” That incident has left a bad taste in the mouth of the public, and it isn’t good PR for Citibank or the NYPD either. However, there are conflicting accounts of what led to the Citibank mass arrest.
The woman in the video below-an account holder-was pulled back inside of the bank and arrested by a plainclothes cop as she tried to leave with her Citibank checkbook in hand.
According to a play-by-play found at Gawker, this was originally planned as a mass-account closing. Demonstrators entered the building, holding a teach-in of sorts about the debt crisis. They announced that they had no plans to bother employees, but wanted only to provide faces to the student loan debt crisis. According to this account of the story, they were then asked to leave the bank, but did not compy, instead staying to continue the teach-in. After being inside for roughly 20 minutes, the doors were locked and when protesters tried to leave, they were told it was “too late” by police and placed under arrest. This is how word got out that people were arrested for closing their Citibank accounts.
Citibank’s initial statement included the sentence below:
To be clear: no one was arrested for closing an account; we didn't lock people in our branch - the police decided to close the branch; and we didn't ask for anyone to be arrested - that is a police decision.
This statement has since been modified, removing the sentence that basically throws the NYPD under the bus. The new statement highlights that only one person asked to close their account, and that request was accommodated, but it was the NYPD that asked the staff to close the branch until “protesters could be removed.” Did Citibank have the right to have demonstrators arrested for trespassing? Yes, but it probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation. If you don’t think so, a similar protest happened at a Chase bank branch, and was handled in a completely different fashion.
The AP reports that demonstrators stormed a Chase bank, equipped with drums and blaring horns. They were told to stay on the sidewalk by police, and the demonstrations continued without any issues or arrests. While the Citibank 24 probably should’ve just closed their accounts without explanation, Citibank shouldn’t have asked them to leave, locked them in, and had them arrested and then blamed it all on the NYPD.
Regardless, the fourth week of Occupy Wall Street ended with a rather explosive series of events in New York and other cities around the country. With national support and media coverage for the movement growing, it’s becoming impossible to ignore or downplay.