Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- A bartender and his fiancée involved in an Occupy Wall Street protest sued the New York City Police Department for alleged civil-rights violations stemming from a protest at a Citibank branch last month.
In a complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court, Julio Jose Jimenez-Artunduaga and Heather Carpenter claimed the police violated protesters’ constitutional rights against unlawful detention and arrest and used excessive force after the Oct. 15 demonstration.
Carpenter, 23, a Citibank account holder from Port Jefferson on New York’s Long Island, decided to close her account after being notified that the bank was imposing a $17 monthly fee unless she maintained a balance of $6,000, according to the complaint.
She said in that she and other protesters, including Jimenez-Artunduaga, joined a demonstration inside the branch at 555 LaGuardia Place in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
According to the complaint, Carpenter left the branch after closing her account and began filming demonstrators as they interacted with police. An unidentified officer arrested Carpenter, saying, “You were inside with everybody else. You have to come with me,” according to the complaint.
Carpenter said that when she questioned officers and showed them the receipt for her closed account, Jimenez-Artunduaga approached police. Officers dragged the two of them into the bank vestibule, where Jimenez-Artunduaga was kicked in the back of the knee, knocked to the ground and handcuffed, the couple alleged. They were both arrested after the incident, according to the complaint.
The couple seeks unspecified damages and lawyers’ fees. Their attorney, Ron Kuby, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said the charges were dropped.
Paul Browne, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information for the New York Police Department, disputed the account of the incident described by the plaintiffs in their lawsuit.
“Both individuals were observed early on disrupting business inside the bank, and then slipping outside as arrests were under way, claiming falsely they were not engaged in the disruption,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “While still inside the bank, they were told to leave by bank personnel and did not. In fact, the males can be seen on a separate YouTube video videotaping, and at one point going behind the bank’s customer service desk to do so,” he said.
Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department said, “We will review the plaintiffs’ papers after the city is served with the complaint.”
The case is Carpenter v. New York City Police Department, 11-cv-8414, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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