Occupy Wall Street: Citibank was stupid. Chase bank was smart.
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.)
- Oct 20: Another protest, this one in DC. See: New action at Citibank to protest record profits (with video)
- It turns out the loudest and most distruptive protestor… was an undercover cop. See” Citibank arrestees say undercover cops set them up
- Video backs up occupiers story. See: New video: Inside Citibank as guards prevent Occupy Wall Street demonstrators from leaving.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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:
- DON’T close your Citibank account today. They’re arresting people
- Citibank arrestees say undercover cops set them up
- New video: Inside Citibank as guards prevent Occupy Wall Street demonstrators from leaving.
More on Occupy Wall Street
- Hawaiian singer Makana Occupies President Obama’s state dinner
- Bill Moyers: How the 1970s backlash against the environmental movement morphed into today’s class war
- Will winter weather stop Occupy Wall Street?
- Bill Maher skewers right-wing idiots who hate Occupy Wall Street
- Calvin and Hobbes explain OWS
- Why are they lying about OWS – and why are they getting away with it?
- Why we occupy: The Story of Citizens United – Why Democracy Only Works When People Are In Charge
- Find your local occupation at Occupy Together – now planned for more than 1,000 cities! | Twitter |Facebook
- Atlanta: website | Twitter| Livestream |Facebook
- Boston: website | twitter | yfrog | Livestream |Facebook
- Dallas: website | Twitter| Livestream |Facebook
- Los Angeles: Website | Twitter| Livestream |Facebook | Youtube
- New York: website | Twitter| Livestream |Facebook
- Portland: Website | Twitter|Livestream |Facebook
- San Francisco: Website | Twitter|Livestream |Facebook
- Seattle: Livestream (Video) | website | Twitter |Facebook
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(citibank arrests image by twitter.com/celakabat)