DON’T close your Citibank account today. They’re arresting people.

  • Published on October 15th, 2011

In what can only be the stupidest public relations move in corporate history, financial behemoth Citibank reacted to customers trying to close their accounts today by… bringing in a ton of cops and having them arrested.

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Even in the dark days of the 1930s and the great depression, when there were actual panics and bank runs,  nobody tried such a spectacularly stupid move.


Here’s how it went down at the Citibank branch  at 555 La Guardia Place in New York. What you can’t see on the video below: The demonstrators (all Citibank customers) were asked to leave, and when they tried to comply Citibank’s security locked them in and wouldn’t let them leave!

Twenty-three were arrested, including the woman at the end in the nice-looking business suit. (I think it’s really cool that the Occupiers have developed hand signals to exchange critical information during emergencies..):

UPDATE: Here’s the official response from Citibank. Take it, as usual, with a huge grain of salt. As in, where does locking the protesters in the bank, and dragging people who HAD left the back into the bank, fit in with “They refused to leave”?

“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.”

Note to those attempting to justify Citibank’s actions by saying “The protesters must have gone in there yelling and screaming”… READ CITIBANK’S STATEMENT. You had better believe if there had been yelling and screaming, they would have said so. Instead they used those lovely weasel words, “They were very disruptive”. Note that that covers just about anything, since by definition a largish group of people walking into a bank desiring to close their accounts is going to disrupt the normal flow of business even if they’re NOT talking. See the next video. Note how “disruptive” the two girls at Bank of America are – it shows the entire thing. The only thing “disruptive” is the bank manager refusing to serve them and insisting that they leave THEIR OWN BANK BRANCH.

UPDATE: We’ve just posted another video from inside the bank. See: New video: Inside Citibank as guards prevent Occupy Wall Street demonstrators from leaving.

UPDATE: Here’s video from inside the bank. Note a couple of things: Despite the claims of some in comments (about shouting and screaming), this scene is extremely calm. While the protesters may be a bit preachy and didactic, there is nothing threatening in any way, and there is no overt “disruption” – there is no reason why business can’t proceed as usual while the kids are talking. That said, walking into a bank and starting an education session is NOT appropriate behavior, and those who were practicing it here should (and did!) expect to be asked to leave. What was inappropriate was locking them in and arresting them. It was certainly inappropriate to be grabbing people who HAD exited and arresting them.

UPDATE: Here’s an additional video that took place earlier this week in Santa Cruz. This time the camera is there from the beginning. Two girls walk into a Bank of America branch, one carrying a sign that merely states her intent to close her account. The bank manager tells her she has to leave and says if they don’t, she will call 911. There was no disruption, no shouting. Watch the whole thing. (Also, see our follow-up story, Citibank was stupid, Chase was smart))

What you can do:

  • 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, or on Twitter @askCiti
  • Take the pledge – tell us in comments if you’re going to close your Citibank (or Bank of American) account on Monday! Take your business to a good local credit union or bank. Find a local credit union.
  • Find out about your local Occupy events happening today via Occupy Together

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More on the Citibank arrests:

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.


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