Lawsuit Alleges Couple Was Arrested for Trying to Close A Bank Account

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Dissatisfied customers or unruly protesters? That is the question. After being arrested in the wake of a protest at a New York City Citibank branch in October, Heather Carpenter and Julio Jose Jiminez-Artunduaga are now suing the city for false arrest. 

Carpenter, a 23-year-old nursing student, contends that she had gone to Citibank that day to close her account and wound up being arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest. If her only act of protest was closing her account, that’s a pretty Orwellian experience.

The New York Police Department had a different take, according to the New York Times City Room blog: “Both individuals were observed early on disrupting business inside the bank, and then slipping outside as arrests were underway, claiming falsely they were  not engaged in the disruption,” an NYPD spokesman told the newspaper.

The lawsuit includes a statement from Citibank, which reads, “A large number 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.”

(MORE: Wall Street Protests Get Specific: Could ‘Bank Transfer Day’ Pit Americans Against Their Big Banks?)

According to the NYPD, the couple was part of a group who congregated in the bank and told stories of struggles with student loan debt and other economic hardship. It’s not clear whether the couple was part of this group; no video shows either of them speaking up. At one point, Jiminez-Artunduaga can be seen filming the protesters, one of many people recording the events via cell phone.

What one of the videos does show is Jiminez-Artunduaga, on the sidewalk in front of the bank, being physically restrained and pulled into the building. “They’re dragging them back in!” someone says in the background, as several protesters repeatedly tell police, “He’s not a part of this.” Another recording shows Carpenter, also on the sidewalk, being ordered inside the bank. “I am a customer,” she says, and shows her account-closure paperwork. When she steps forward, she is tackled by security, and a phalanx of uniformed police pushes her back into the bank.

(MORE: How Much Basic Checking at a Big Bank Really Costs)

“The conduct of the defendant officers in restraining, arresting and imprisoning plaintiffs was totally without probable cause and was done maliciously, falsely and in bad faith,” the couple’s suit says.

The Times has posted three videos of the encounter, so you can decide for yourself.