Daily Kos publicized a story captured on Global Revolution, of perhaps as many as 30 people being arrested for attempting to close their Citibank accounts. Kos originally said 30 people were arrested; an update now says 17, again per Global Revolution.
The New York Post reports that 24 people were arrested; its characterization is that a “mob stormed” a branch at Laguardia Place in Manhattan. The basis for the arrests appears to be plenty dubious. Later accounts indicate that people trying to close their accounts were locked in the branch and then arrested for illegal trespass. This video (hat tip Mike Stark) appears to support the protestors’ claims. Notice that the people in the branch are not disruptive, and a woman outside the branch, who had documents to show she was a Citibank customer but apparently had been inside the branch, was grabbed by the police and forced into the branch:
This was Citibank’s statement:
A large amount of protesters entered our branch at 555 La Guardia Place around 2:00 PM today. They were very disruptive and refused to leave after being repeatedly asked, causing our staff to call 911. The Police asked the branch staff to close the branch until the protesters could be removed. Only one person asked to close an account and was accommodated.
I suspect there will be other footage taken by the participants to determine the accuracy of Citibank’s version of the story. The people in the branch did not look “disruptive” in the clip above, and if Citi closed the branch early, that would prevent others from making account closure requests.
This looks troublingly similar to an effort by Bank of America last August to stop account closures by individual who wanted to send a message, in which the police barred access to the branch in St. Louis:
I don’t know what the branch staff was thinking. This is yet another incident that is only going to engender more sympathy for the little guy versus the banks, whether expressed via Occupy Wall Street or other channels.
One of the things the powers that be seem to be underestimating is how they cannot present a cherry-picked version of what happened with so many people able to take videos. As we’ve said earlier, the same way that graphic TV coverage of the war in Vietnam was crucial in turning public sentiment against the war, so to are heavy-handed police actions against non-threatening protestors going to undermine the credibility of the officialdom.
Update: Some suggestions courtesy the website Red, Green and Blue:
Call Citibank President Vikram Pandit and tell him to stop arresting his customers. He told Fortune magazine he’d be happy to talk to Occupy Wall Street! His office line is (212) 793-1201, and his email address is email@example.com. Other numbers to try: (866) 213-0890 (718) 248-6433 or (210) 677-7284, or on Twitter @askCiti
If you have a Citibank account, take your business to a good local credit union or bank. Find a local credit union.