Three banks, three very different responses to anti-bank protests. As protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement gathered at branches of the nation’s largest banks over the weekend, some of them intent on closing their accounts, banks and their employees reacted in very different ways, indicating some confusion by banks about how best to respond.
Some protests grew testy. But the one witnessed by Credit.com involved a far more peaceful scene: The quiet closing of bank accounts and the orderly movement of capital from one institution to another.
About 300 people left Zuccotti Park and marched boisterously through lower Manhattan Saturday morning. At the front of the march were about a dozen Chase bank customers who planned to close their accounts. Many of them criticized Jamie Dimon, Chase’s CEO, who has taken a prominent role in lobbying against renewed regulation of the financial industry.
“I’m going to remove my money because Jamie Dimon is getting million-dollar bonuses even as the financial instruments that he helped create are forcing people out of their homes and bankrupting municipalities,” said Alex Klader, 25.
Once the protest arrived at the Chase branch at 155 Water St., there were too many people present to squeeze onto the narrow sidewalk out front. So the protesters formed a circle around the block.
As the marchers walked, many of them holding up signs and some beating on drums, the Chase customers smiled at the two New York police officers standing by the door and entered the branch. They sat in cubicles and filled out forms. About five minutes later they exited with checks tucked into their wallets and purses.
“They were nice,” said Biola Jeje, 20, a student at Brooklyn College. “We said we wanted to close out accounts, and we just did it. It was very quick and smooth.”
The now-former Chase customers said they planned to deposit their savings in smaller banks and credit unions with lower fees.
“I make $9 an hour at a coffee shop, so I can’t afford to be paying Chase $12 a month in fees,” Jeje said.
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Elsewhere the process was not so easy. About two dozen protesters, at least some of whom came to close their accounts, were locked inside a Citibank branch in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. In a video from that protest, a plainclothes police officer grabbed a woman who was standing outside the bank, picked her off the ground, shoved her into the bank and locked her inside. The protesters were arrested for trespassing.
In a statement, Citibank said that the decision to detain the protesters was made by the police after protesters were asked to leave and refused.
They were very disruptive and refused to leave after being repeatedly asked, causing our staff to call 911,” Citi said in a press release. “Only one person asked to close an account and was accommodated.”
In Santa Cruz, CA, two women walked into a Bank of America branch to close their accounts. One was holding a protest sign. A bank employee walked over to them and told them to leave, according to a video from the scene. The women said they were customers of the bank.
“You cannot be a protester and a customer at the same time,” the bank employee said.
The women left, and later joked with police officers who arrived on the scene.
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Image: Michael Daddino, via Flickr