Occupy Wall Street: Citibank was stupid. Chase bank was smart.

  • Published on October 17th, 2011

citibank arrests  by twitter.com/celakabat

By now just about everyone in the country must know that 23 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were arrested Saturday in Manhattan when they attempted to close their Citibank accounts. Their crime: they talked about it too much. (See our previous article, DON’T close your Citibank account today. They’re arresting people.)


What you probably don’t know is: on the same morning a similar group went to a Chase bank branch and engaged in a similar action. You don’t know this because, unlike at Citibank, the Chase manager just rolled with it.

Spread the word! Share this on: Facebook |  Twitter Reddit | Stumbleupon (or use the buttons at the bottom of the page)

Yes, the same protest happened at Chase. Here’s how the AP described the scene:

Demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City paraded to a Chase bank branch today, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed….

“Banks got bailed out. We got sold out,” the crowd of as many as 1,000 in Manhattan chanted. A few protesters went inside the bank to close their accounts, but the group didn’t stop other customers from getting inside or seek to blockade the business.

Police told the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, and the demonstration appeared to be fairly orderly as it wound through downtown streets.

No harm, no foul, there were no arrests, and it was all over in a matter of minutes.

You want an eye for an eye?

We’ve had a lot of people comment on our iniatial Saturday report on the Citibank arrests, with variations on the theme of, “Well, they were breaking the rules, so it’s perfectly reasonable for them to get arrested.”

Let me emphasize once again, in big letters, “NO, ACTUALLY, IT’S NOT“.

Yes, Citibank was on legal ground in having its customers arrested for trespassing. Legally, any store can throw out any of its customers for any reason it likes.

But it’s not the best public relations tactic.

(If you haven’t seen them already, check out the videos of the protest, the arrests, and a similar action from earlier in the week – all on page 2.)

Note also that Citibank claims they were trying to get the protesters to leave… but locked the doors so they couldn’t get out. Now they’re blaming the police for that… but it was their call to escalate this to caging and arresting. Here’s Citibank’s official 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.”

Call 911? If you want to get technical about the rules, that was a “misuse of the 911 system,” in that  it was “a request for emergency response when no actual emergency exists and when the caller does not have a good faith basis to request emergency assistance.” And no, being bored to death by well-meaning but unfocused demonstrators does not constitute an emergency.

Yeah, the demonstrators were stupid for trying to talk to the folks at Citibank, rather then just shutting up and closing their accounts.
But Citibank was stupider for locking the doors and having all of them ARRESTED, instead of, for instance, having the police escort them off the property.

The demonstrators made a poor tactical choice. Citibank made a poorer choice.

There’s a classic character in Shakespeare; a gentleman named Shylock. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He had a legal, binding contract that said he could exact a pound of flesh from one of his customers. Poor choice on Antonio’s part, but poorer choice on Shylock’s.

He decided to push for his full legal entitlement. But guess what? It turned out to be a public relations nightmare for him, too.

“Follow the rules”

One of the things that struck me about all the people saying “you must follow the rules” is…the spectacular number of rules we have in this society. And how easy it would be for ANY of us to be arrested… if a police officer decided they wanted to.

Cross a street against a light? Jaywalking. Arrested!

This country’s alcohol distribution system practically forces you to break the law. “Closing time! Drink up, then leave!”. Most people are probably okay… but you could get pulled over. And arrested.

And then there’s cannabis, which harms nobody, and yet we have hundreds of thousands of non-violent cannabis users arrested in this country every year.

So yeah, walking into Citibank and giving them a lecture was probably impolite. And a waste of time, since the Citibank employees didn’t need the lecture. But all those arrests? Totally out of proportion to the situation.

Keep in mind… the reason our country is in this mess is because of rampant fraud and improper dealing from massive, too-big-to-fail banks. Companies that fraudulently certified investments as AAA, companies that forged documents in order to push through questionable mortgages, then other companies that forged documents in order to push through foreclosures on those same crappy mortgages…

So don’t lecture me about people “Needing to follow the rules.”

It appears that this year we’re making a big deal about enforcing the rule against sleeping in a park, or walking in the street, but we don’t bother enforcing the rule against multi-billion-dollar bank fraud.

If there’s one message that we’ve gotten loud and clear, it’s that the rules don’t apply to the 1 percent.

And the other message is that for the 99 percent, “Step out of line once and we will  have you arrested.”

Next Page >> Watch the Videos

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 vikram.pandit@citi.com, or on Twitter @askCiti
  • Join in Bank Transfer Day on November 5th. Organizers are encouraging everyone to close out their accounts at the too-big-to-fail behemoths and voting with their feet by taking their deposits to local credit unions. “Remember, remember, the 5th of November…”
  • Take the pledge – tell us in comments if you’re going to close your Citibank (or Bank of American) account on Today! 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

 Like what you just read? Like us on Facebook for more updates! 

More on the Citibank arrests:

More on action against the banks

More resources:

(citibank arrests image  by twitter.com/celakabat)


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.
  • Tashtash

    Citibank closed MY account because I would not consent to the 12% APR increase (from 6.99% to 18.99%) for absolutely no reason at all. I have stellar credit and a long history of them of opening accounts, paying them off and keeping them open. I continually charge through Chase and MBNA now. They have lost all my money. I was told they did this to many, many people This damaged my credit rating. Anyone else have this problem??

  • Pingback: Sovereign Citizen()

  • Michael Rooney

    I just wanted to say that your brief summary of jay walking is not accurate. Jay walking is defined differently in every state, but in Wisconsin, where I am from, the jaywalking law is completely different from what you say.

    In WI you are allowed to cross the street anywhere as long as you don’t impede traffic. Outside crosswalks the traffic has the right of way, in crosswalks pedestrians have the right of way pending giving vehicles enough time to stop.

    It’s a small thing to nitpick, but given that you spent most of your article nitpicking Citibank’s statement you should have been more careful. Let he who is without sin and all that…

  • John

    If you close an account, doesn;t it cost to open it again or elsewhere?

    • Jeremy Bloom

      I’ve never heard of anyone charging to open a bank account.
      To join a credit union generally requires you put down about $25, but that’s because you’re a PART OWNER of the credit union! And you’re paid annual dividends. If and when you leave, you get your $25 investment back.

  • Aaron

    I hope people realize that while Citi received money from the government, they also paid ALL of it back PLUS interest.

  • ginger

    I’m closing my ShittyBank account and opening one at a local credit union. I can’t wait til they ask me why I’m closing my account, and I will say with total honesty, “I’m ashamed to be in business with you.”

    • Tom Dee

      A kind reminder that those who work in retail bank branches are not the ones taking home the huge bonuses, and are very likely earning salaries not so much higher than your own, and perhaps in some cases even less. When you close your account and tell them why, no problem, but please try to be kind. We make ourselves more noble when we allow others to be as well.

  • Dan

    This is pretty sickening stuff…

    No doubt I’m moving to a credit union

  • Claire K.

    Thanks for the report. You might want to stay away from the Shylock analogy –he’s kind of the stereotype of the Jewish banker and there’s a lot of debate about whether Merchant of Venice is anti-Semitic. Not saying that the way you referenced him was anti-Semitic at all, but given that conservatives are already charging OWS with anti-Semitism (and some of the Jewish people I know who would otherwise support the movement seem to be worried) it might be a good idea to stay away from material that could be alienating.

    • Jeremy Bloom

      Being Jewish myself, I thought twice about whether or not I should go there.
      But in the first place, Shakespeare goes out of his way to humanize Shylock, giving him one of the best speeches in the play (“If you prick me, do I not bleed?”).
      And secondly, the analogy is apt. Shylock’s sin is that he over-reaches. He’s got the niggling letter of the law on his side, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to budge just because what he’s doing is repugnant.

  • George Hung

    Close credit card and bank accounts before November 5th if you can.

  • Tom Jacobson

    I will close my citibank credit cards.

    • Brian the Playa Bee

      Yes, please do! I already pulled out my money from Chase Bank after they took out WAMU and i got tired of having the big guys use my cash!

  • Elijah Goldsmith

    Hmmmm….sympathetic to the cause and agree the proper action is to vote with your feet and change banks, but watching the videos do you really not think an arrest was warranted? Pretty sure no one would enjoy the society that doesn’t honor the right to exist without people screaming and loitering wherever they choose. Would like to see the ‘leader’s’ response if I protested at his relative’s funeral – think we mat see a flash of hypocrisy?

    • Jeremy Bloom

      Since when is the solution to everything “ARREST SOMEONE!”
      See my other comment..
      1) If YOU got busted every time you violated some law or regulation, you’d spend most of your life in court or in jail – even if you think you’re a “law-abiding citizen”.
      2) The banks and investment firms are in violation of spectacular numbers of regulations and laws – the kind involving forging documents, fiduciary malfeasance and billions of dollars of frauds. Are you saying it’s okay for the banks to get a pass (which is what is currently happening) but if customers voice their objections and don’t leave as soon as they’re asked, THEY should be arrested?
      Even if Citibank was “within their rights” to arrest folks, it wasn’t NECESSARY, and it was counterproductive to everything they said they wanted. Chase, faced with the same situation, just shrugged their shoulders and got back to business after the kids finished up and left.
      That’s the point of the article, but I guess you missed that.

      • Dennis


        What you fail to report on is that crowd put the employees and the customers, and in this case, the large group of non-customers, at a security risk. That cannot be ignored when you say the branch manager over-reacted. Her number one responsibility from the time she opens that branch in the morning to set up for business till the evening when she locks the doors to close down is the security of everyone in that branch. Anybody can walk into a branch and say they are customers. That’s why you have non-loitering laws, especially for bank branches. At some point the branch manager had a responsibility to end the demonstration, so she called the police, which is probably felt was her responsibility, if not her duty at the time.

        Just because you are certain that none of those protesters would ever in a million years have the inclination to pull out a gun and try to rob the place, that doesn’t matter to what the branch manager has to be aware of at all times. And almost all robbers go into a branch pretending to be customers. What you’re arguing is that the branch manager should have just assumed because they were just protesters, none of them could have had malicious intentions. And not only that, that there could not exist someone with malicious or criminal intentions to try to take advantage of the disturbance.

        Call up a friend that you know who is versed in bank security measures and try to learn something before you judge someone charged with that kind of responsibility.

  • toni

    Are we stupid??? ARE YOU? If you’re mad your tax dollars might be used to pay off someone else’s money problems, then you should realize they already have been. OUR tax dollars were used to pay off the BANK’s bad decisions, since apparently, they don’t know how to live within their means either. But I would think, if my tax dollars saved them from their debts (caused by so many unpaid student loans, and so on), then I consider it a debt paid.

  • Pingback: Occupy Wall Street: Citibank was stupid. Chase bank was smart. – Red, Green, and Blue | PAULitics.US – Wake Up America()

  • Pingback: You Can Be Arrested For Just Closing Your Bank Account? Seriously? - Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - Page 11 - City-Data Forum()

  • Pingback: Occupy Wall Street: Citibank was stupid. Chase bank was smart. « METHINKS SHE DOTH PROTEST()

  • Graeme

    Actually the people WERE being disruptive to business and while it was citibank who asked for them to be charged it was the police no allowing everyone to leave, because they were rightfully under arrest, wait let me say this in big lettings RIGHTFULLY UNDER ARREST.

    The woman outside was not just offering legal advice, she was one of the protestors inside before hand… why don’t you actually watch and LISTEN to the conversation in the video, the woman is clearly trying to get out of being arrested and when she made a move to leave they stopped her because…. you guessed it.. she was RIGHTFULLY UNDER ARREST.

  • this is intense.

  • jim

    I’m in the process of closing my BoA accounts. Today I’m working on my BoA money market account. I joined Mission Federal Credit Union in San Diego. Another plus is very personal service, it’s not crowded, and I don’t feel like I’m in a Walmart. Our vote doesn’t count for much anymore with our political system bought and sold. We are economic entities only to those running this country. The only way we can vote is with our wallets and pocketbooks. The most important vote is where we get our loans and where we put our money.

  • I am a former Citibank Banker, and VP. Generally, they TRY to help clients acheive their financial goals, and have always had free checking for everyone. Yes, they did get bailed out, but the taxpayer received $2,000,000,000 MORE than what they gave! Pretty good deal for the Taxpayer in this one single case… BUT….. now with the changes, Citibank, which for many years, held out, and was always better for their clients, is turning down the dark path…. You can still get a free account with no balance requirement, as long as you do one bill payment and one direct deposit… I’m still closing my account, becuase I saw my boss’s getting HUGE bonus’s (i received some also), that was just TOO excessive…

    • Cmd

      Maybe it was your performance keeping you from the larger bonus

  • Jon B

    Are you people stupid? I went to college, I got student loans, commuted to save money. Worked at crap jobs to pay the loans back. This sounds to me that people do not know how to live within their means. Why should I as a taxpayer have to pay other peoples student loans when I have already paid mine back.

    Live within your means and quit complaining. The rule of thumb is you shouldn’t take more than half your expected first years salary out in student loans. Did the lady really think that after college she would make 240,000$ a year? These are just stupid parents not directing their children and teaching them how to live within their means.

    • I truly hope those who read, realize that even if for some strange reason, they believe they are not a party to this, they best wake the heck up. Since Fannie and Freddie delved into this mess, you, as a taxpayer, are involved. Now, if this got your attention, look up 15 USC 7003. E-Notes do not have a law to support them. E-Notes are what is used for substitution of your mortage note and security instrument. They are trading that scanned copy of the mortage note and security in what they call a transferrable record, a payment intangible that is elluded to hint toward the missing paper note and security instrument. If you didn’t grasp that, I suggest you start learning all about them. This is one of the biggest frauds in the history of mankind. It put you and everyone else into servitude, didn’t it? And….. You might just find your student loans are just as involved.
      It is not about being a deadbeat, or whatever you would like to call these person. I would say thy at least are trying to do something rather than being a Sheeple. Peace be with you.

  • Brian

    You had me until “stupider”.

  • I am doing the groundwork so I can transfer 2 checking and 2 savings accounts from Citibank to community banks. In addition to withdrawing my financial support from a bank that has engaged in treasonous behavior, I will get far better interest rates.

  • tyais

    Check this out. A woman outside of the bank offering legal aid to those locked inside is then dragged inside against her will, locked in and arrested!!!! Please watch…this is crazy!! Wrong on so many levels…reminds me of the beginning of Nazi movement. You could be next. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/10/24-people-arrested-for-trying-to-close-accounts-at-citibank.html thanks for article 🙂

  • behind the scenes look at occupy boston!


  • Mary

    We need to have Citibank and Bank of America’s 800 numbers so we can make them responsible for the charges.

  • Perhaps Citibank arresting arresting people has more to do with preserving the banks autonomy and very survival rather than the very interesting idea that all the security guards and cops were trying to do was put a sudden frenzy session of customers/vigilantes into quarantine mode. Who really needs to be quarantined are the banks, but that’s just the humble opinion of an individual with hardly a dime to his name.

    Such are the affairs of modern day America bristling with self hate and apathy towards the haves and the have nots on a sullen Saturday afternoon.


  • Pingback: Close Your Bank Account and Get Arrested! - Christian Forums()

  • Christina DeRyke

    I will be opening a credit union account and trasfering my BOA direct disposit. Prepare for Bank Transfer Day, get everything set up to move your funds by 11/5/11!

    • qwed02

      If any bank is charging fees that you don’t want to pay (a reasonable response), why did people wait until OWS to do that? I moved by account to a credit unions months ago. It had nothing to do with OWS.