The banks fight back: Customers locked in and arrested after attempting to close their accounts in Occupy Wall Street protests.
Banks across America appear to be fighting the growing protest against income disparity and rising fees as the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads worldwide.
A series of videos filmed across the U.S. in New York City; Santa Cruz, California and St Louis, Missouri, show customers staging protests and mass account closures.
However, footage has emerged showing what appears to be dozens of Citibank and Bank of America customers denied requests to close their accounts, some even being arrested after alleged clashes with branch managers.
Video footage obtained by Gawker.com earlier this month shows dozens of people corralled inside of a Citibank branch in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, some signalling inside they are facing arrest.
A woman dressed in a business suit holding a checkbook attempts to enter but is stopped by officers outside who ask her if she was part of the protest.
After calmly insisting she is a customer of the bank, a plain-clothed officer detains her.
Police swarm as she appears to be taken back inside – one of 24 people arrested on charges of criminal trespassing, reports the website.
Citibank said in an official statement the group was ‘very disruptive and refused to leave after being repeatedly asked’.
A bank spokesman said one person asked to close an account and was accommodated and acknowledged that the branch was closed ‘until the protesters could be removed’.
The footage follows a video uploaded to YouTube on October 8, which shows three Occupy Santa Cruz protesters attempting to close their accounts at a local Bank of America branch.
Two of the women are shown walking into the branch and sitting down, one of them with a large placard.
A manager asks the women to leave and threatens to call police, claiming ‘you cannot be a protester and a customer at the same time’.
The women leave and vow to return without a sign the following day to close their accounts.
The scenes were reminiscent of a rally in St Louis on August 12, which saw several people lining up outside of a Bank of America branch in effort to close their accounts.
Video footage uploaded on YouTube shows demonstrators shouting on bullhorns outside of the branch in protest, as Bank of America employees stand outside barring the group from entering.
The spectacles come weeks after both Citibank and Bank of America unveiled plans to hike fees for its services.
Earlier this month, Citibank announced changes to its mid-tier checking accounts, which offer the potential for earning interest and a few other perks.
Starting in December, Citi will charge $20 a month on these accounts, unless the customer has combined balances of $15,000 or more in checking, savings and investment accounts or loan balances.
The fee was previously waived for combined balances of $6,000 for that level of account, which offers perks such as interest-bearing checking.
Customers also pay $2 fees for using non-Citi ATMs if they don’t meet the balance requirement. Last month Citi said it will no longer give rewards points for debit card transactions.
That stemmed, in part, from changes in federal regulations that cut roughly in half the amount banks could charge retailers for processing purchases made on debit cards, a rule that’s cutting sharply into bank revenue.
Citi’s move came just a few days after Bank of America Corp said it would be charging $5 per month for using debit cards starting next year.
Other banks have also been testing such fees.
U.S. cities large and small were ‘occupied’ over the weekend by the group that calls themselves ‘the 99 per cent’: Washington, D.C., Fairbanks, Alaska, Burlington, Vermont, Rapid City, South Dakot, and Cheyenne, Wyoming were just a few.
More than 70 New York protesters were arrested Saturday, more than 40 of them in Times Square.
About 175 people were arrested in Chicago after they refused to leave a park where they were camped late Saturday, and there were about 100 arrests in Arizona – 53 in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix – after protesters refused police orders to disperse.
About two dozen people were arrested in Denver, and in Sacramento, California.
Meanwhile, an offshoot movement called Bank Transfer Day appears to be gaining momentum.
A statement on the movement’s Facebook page encourages supporters to take a stand against big banks by removing their funds on November 5th.
‘Together we can ensure that these banking institutions will always remember the 5th of November!!
‘If the 99% removes our funds from the major banking institutions on or by this date, we will send a clear message and give the 1% a taste of the fear that we experience every day when we aren’t able to pay for our rent, food, medication, utilities, student loans, etc.,’ it reads.
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