Two Occupy Wall Street protesters filed the first federal civil rights lawsuit brought against the NYPD in connection with the OWS movement on Monday, claiming they were falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force last month during a protest at a Manhattan bank.
Heather Carpenter, a 23-year-old Port Jefferson Station nursing student, and her fiancé Julio Jose Jimenez-Artunduaga, a 23-year-old Colombian immigrant who works in bar-tending and construction, were arrested Oct. 15 in front of a Greenwich Village Citibank branch.
The arrest, which was captured on video and posted to YouTube, shows the couple standing in front of the Citibank branch at 555 Laguardia Place, where protesters were still inside after Carpenter had closed their accounts with the bank.
The couple were there wearing suits to protest new monthly account fees and other issues as part of the OWS movement's Bank Transfer Day.
The police had allegedly just locked in the protesters who were still inside the bank so they could be arrested for causing a public disturbance, and a plainclothes officer approaches Carpenter and says you were inside.
Carpenter does not deny that she was just inside the branch but she provides a receipt proving that she was a customer and had just closed her bank account, then tells the officer I'm a customer.
The officer and Carpenter have a short back-and-forth, then the cop tells her one last time you were inside and proceeds to physically her up, while another officer picks up Jimenez-Artunduaga.
I'm a customer. What are you doing? what are you doing? What are you doing? Get off of me, Carpenter screams as the police pick her up, then adds when her fiancé is grabbed, He's not doing anything. He's not doing anything wrong. Oh my god. This is wrong. This is wrong ... You should be ashamed.
The officers carry the two protesters back into the bank, where they arrest them for trespassing and resisting arrest. The complaint says that during their arrests, Jimenez-Artunduaga suffered a deep cut to his right index finger and other injuries, while Carpenter sustained scrapes, bruises and other minor injuries.
Both defendants were jailed for at least 30 hours, then released Oct. 16 on their own recognizance, the complaint said.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has already dropped the charges against Jimenez-Artunduaga, and prosecutors said Nov. 14 they plan to drop the charges against Carpenter on Dec. 15, according to the complaint.
The People have determined that we cannot prove the case [against Jimenez-Artunduaga] beyond a reasonable doubt after also being informed by Citibank and their legal counsel that the defendant was with his girlfriend, Heather Carpenter, prosecutors said in a statement. Ms. Carpenter is a customer of Citibank and conducted business at the bank shortly before Ms. Carpenter and the defendant were arrested. For these reasons the People move to dismiss.
But simply dropping the charges will not get the NYPD off the hook in Manhattan federal court, where the suit, which seeks damages to be determined by a jury, was filed Monday.
The defendants' lawyers, Ronald Kuby, told the Daily News on Monday, I recognize that Citibank wants to do everything it can to keep its customers, but arresting people who close their accounts strikes me as a bit much.
Earlier this month, Carpenter posted comments about the protest at Citibank on her Facebook.
11 of us held it together and stayed in good spirits, she said.
The suit comes on the heels of similar federal civil rights lawsuits rising out of Occupy movements in other states around the country.
The complaint outlines the defendants' grievances against four officers, whose names are not given, stating that the conduct of the officers in restraining, arresting, and arresting Plaintiffs was totally without probable cause, and was done maliciously, falsely and in bad faith.
The complaint states the defense's claims that the defendants were falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force by the NYPD.