A Protester's Account of This Weekend's Citibank Arrests

Citibank's gotten the chance to tell its side of the story regarding the arrest of 24 people—including the woman in this video, an account-holder, who appears to be dragged back inside the bank—at one of its New York City branches on Saturday. Here's one protester's version of the events.

This account is by Elana Carroll (that's her in the above photograph, taken by the AP's John Minchillo on Saturday), a friend of mine who was among the people arrested at the Greenwich Village Citibank. I've slightly edited her story for clarity.

The woman from the video who got arrested had originally entered the bank with us as a part of our group (our group had met about 20 minutes before in Washington Square Park). She and a few people (although I'm not sure how many exactly) closed their accounts while the rest of us were listening to the stories we were sharing. When we were asked to leave by management, she and a few others walked out. The man in the video in the hoodie who grabs her is a plain-clothes cop who was with us when he entered the bank. Whether he was with us since our meeting at Washington Square, I don't know, but other people with us have said they saw him with us earlier.

We entered the building chanting. Inside, a man began by announcing that we were there to have a short teach-in regarding our student loan experiences. One woman started off with her story: she is 21 years old and $120,000 in student loan debt. The next speaker spoke about how we did not intend to harass employees as individuals, but rather intended to give some faces to these crazy debt statistics, and to do this in a place that has played a role in the current financial climate (one which accepts and even encourages debt).

During this second speech we were asked to leave by management, but chose to keep on talking. We were not shouting or moving about at all–we were in a loosely formed circle in the center of the bank lobby. Another one or two people spoke briefly. As they spoke the doorway was slowly being filled with buff men in polo shirts. Our talk was slowing down and coming to a close. We had been inside probably between 10 and 20 minutes total when suddenly we heard "doors are being locked now!" from one of the men who'd been standing in the doorway.

We walked over to the front doors and were met by many cops. At least 6 were inside with us. "We would like to leave " we said. "It's too late" the cops said back. A woman in her 70s (who I later befriended while waiting at central booking) asked to leave again and moved forward. She was pushed back forcefully by one of the cops in the doorway. She did not react. Everyone remained calm. "You are all under arrest," said a whiteshirt. These cops were mean: laughing under their breath, asking us about what we were "doing," telling us it was too late to leave, telling us to remain calm, etc.

As you can see in the video we were standing around next to the ATMs waiting to see what would actually happen-–not making a huge ruckus. Suddenly I see the boyfriend of the woman in the video, pressed up against the second doorway (still not inside, but not the doorway that meets the sidewalk) by four cops, clearly in massive pain. His face was all cringed up and they were pushing him and pressing him into the glass. After some commotion, he was placed sitting on the ground, in the front of the bank and some officers stood around him. It looked terrible, changed the vibe of the whole situation. His girlfriend later told me that he'd gotten upset when the plain-clothes officer tried to arrest her, which, as you can see in the video, was obviously was not a very graceful arrest.

Certainly the arrest was a big moment. But all of the interactions with the police and seeing what it was like to be processed etc. was really eye-opening as well. Aside from the cops who arrested us, many of the cops we interacted with told us that they "commended" us and were proud that this movement is happening.

While we're here, we should note that Citibank's statement (available here) has been modified since it was originally published, removing the following sentence:

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.

As Ben Yakas points out, that sentence was laying all the blame for the arrests at NYPD's feet—maybe not the best way to treat the people who you call when you want protesters removed.