Bank of America forbids withdrawal-of-money protest

| August 13, 2011 | 14 Replies

On Friday, August 12, 2011, about 50 members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (“MORE”) protested the activities of Bank of America at the downtown branch of the bank in St. Louis , Missouri.

Many of the protesters have been longtime customers of Bank of America, and they intended to withdraw all of their money from Bank of America as part of their protest. Thus, the protestors were taking a page from Arianna Huffington, who initiated a “Move Your Money” campaign back in 2009.

MORE was upfront about its concerns.

Bank of America is bad for St. Louis.
Join St. Louis community members on August 12th to pull our money out of BOA and invest in local banks and credit unions. We are taking action to invest locally because BOA is hurting our community and local economy.
– Bank of America is foreclosing on hundreds of families without following proper procedures. This affects the value of our homes, the stability of our neighborhoods and the future of our city.
-Bank of America is sitting on billions of dollars that should be reinvested in our community so that we can rebuild our cities and neighborhoods.
– Where do they get their money? From us! Bank of America charges some of the highest fees around and profits off of predatory loans.
– Bank of America paid $0 in federal taxes last year and continues to receive subsidies and tax breaks that are causing budget deficits and cuts in vital services.
As part of a national movement, millions have already taken action and moved their money out of Big Banks. According to MoveYourMoneyProject.org, $5 billion has already been pulled out of Big Banks.

Here are some instructions MORE gave to its members regarding Friday’s protest:

On Friday, August 12th at 4 PM join other community members to send BOA a message.__CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNTS & INVEST LOCALLY__Bank of America in Downtown St. Louis at 8th and Market.__If you are closing your account come early and see reverse side for more information. Account holders should join others closing accounts inside the lobby between 3:00 and 4:15 PM. Everyone else who is concerned about the way Bank of America is affecting our city and economy, please join our rally outside! Please read below to learn about which banks to move your money to and please call us so that we know you will be joining us and we can keep you informed about any changes!

As you can see, there is no suggestion that any protester should engage in any unlawful activity. Under these circumstances, there would seem to be two approaches that a bank might take to the upcoming protest:

1) Invite the protestors to come into the bank to withdraw their money, as long as they didn’t disturb other bank customers. A bank might even invite the protesters to briefly sit down with bank officials, so that the protesters could air their grievances face-to-face.  Bank of America did not choose this alternative.  Rather, it choose #2.

2) Bank of America assumed that the protesters would commit criminal acts, called in a police riot squad, blocked the protestors from entering the bank to withdraw their own money, and ignored the protesters’ concerns about the bank’s overall behavior.

Under these circumstances, there would seem to be two approaches that a television “news” department might take regarding such a protest:

1. Show up with a reporter and camera to inform the viewing audience about the concerns of the protesters, whether or not the station aired Bank of America commercials.  It would seem that all St. Louis stations would be on alert; after all, the riot squad was on alert, substantial additional security was evident and the protesters proceeded to voice their concerns despite this intimidation.  No St. Louis television stations showed up to cover this protest, however.  Instead, all of the St. Louis television news departments chose alternative #2.

2. Don’t show up at all, meaning that a local blogger provides the only video for this event, even though a protest of this magnitude would have drawn coverage had it been a Tea Party rally instead of a protest against an establishment bank.

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Category: Censorship, Community, Media, populism, Protests and Actions

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. BofA refuses to let people in to withdraw money | October 5, 2011
  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Two responses:

    A bank’s refusal to allow access to or removal of funds is in violation of the law. Federal Deposit regulations and state law require banks to allow access and withdrawals. Interfering with these rights is a civil and possibly criminal wrong. Some enterprising young attorney with a class action firm should sue these tools here and anywhere where they keep people from their money!

    The lack of coverage may be cured by the filing of the suit and providing a copy of the suit papers and the YouTube video to the lazy local media. Make sure the story appears in the Post-Dispatch first, all the TV and radio locally steal their news from the Post! Lazy pultroons!

  2. rob j says:

    try refinancing with them right now almost impossible they are in trouble big trouble

  3. Idrathernotsay says:

    As a real-life reporter and editor who has won more than a dozen awards from my peers in various professional editors’ groups, I offer the readers of Dangerousintersection a perspective more credible than that of wannabe reporters Erich Vieth and Tim Hogan.

    A news outlet, whether television or otherwise, would really deserve the quotes around “news” if it let itself be exploited to cover publicity stunts like the MORE demonstration described here. (All the more so if they covered it uncritically, which is what Erich’s post seems to want.) I recall seeing an infamous example in early 2009, when CNN’s Randi Kaye gladly took on the role of unpaid publicist — in my former profession we call it “whore”, and some even less-nice terms — by uncritically covering a union-led publicity stunt that brought a handful of protesters to an AIG executive’s home. (That protest came close to turning violent, and although the exec wasn’t at home, his terrified young son was.)

    Erich might be a real lawyer, but Tim Hogan’s comment leads me to think he Tim is a wannabe lawyer as well as a wannabe journalist. I mean, must one go to law school to know that a bank, like any other business, has a clear right to prevent a group from conducting its publicity stunt on the the business’s private property?

    For my part, I think a bank official should have come out to meet the group, with the bank’s own cameras rolling if not those of a TV station — and told them clearly that they were welcome to conduct their business with the bank privately and one-by-one… and were ALSO free to exercise their First Amendment right to demonstrate and voice their concerns about anything they wish. ONLY, NOT IN THE SAME PLACE AT THE SAME TIME. That is, they must choose between demonstrating (at a location other than the bank’s private property), or conducting their business with the bank; can’t do both at once.

    Erich and Tim: If you own a business that has a regular office or storefront, and a bunch of people wanted to publicly complain about you, wouldn’t you insist they do their mouthing off at a site as far away from your office as you could legally push them to? Please be honest (I know that is hard for people like you.)

  4. bill says:

    A lot of people don’t know this but banks don’t hold enough money in their vaults for all depositors, it gets all loaned out with high leverage. I believe the leverage rate at this point is around for every $1 deposited, $10 gets loaned out on that $1. They hold a certain portion of cash on hand in the vault but it’s only a fraction of the amount if all depositors come all at once and want all their money back, essentially they would go belly up in a bank run. Personally i don’t care about boa or any other bank that is connected to the federal reserve bank which has nothing to do with the government, it’s a private banking cartel with shareholders that prints money out of thin air and inflates and devalues our currency. Rising prices are the result of these actions. The only way to stop all the nonsense by the federal reserve and banks is to not take part in their scam, get all currency out of banks and put into real assets.

  5. Falcon15 says:

    Idrathernotsay said: “Erich and Tim: If you own a business that has a regular office or storefront, and a bunch of people wanted to publicly complain about you, wouldn’t you insist they do their mouthing off at a site as far away from your office as you could legally push them to? Please be honest (I know that is hard for people like you.)”
    Reply

    Honest answer: it sucks to be the business being protested against but as long as the protestors are peaceable, and follow the laws, they have a right and a responsibility to assemble publicly, peaceably protest, and speak their minds in the every state in the USA.

    Sorry, but people like you push the loss of our Constitutional rights and ignore Federal Laws. You mention the first amendment, but totally ignore the statutes set forth therein as well as the 9th Amendment which solidifies and clearly defines them. Additionally every state in the union codified and ratified the rights to free speech and assembly in the first articles of their Constitutions.

    If you are a reporter, your very living depends on the First Amendment, and your right to speak the truth and/or your opinions in print or verbally even if those opinions are not shared by a majority of those who would hear and/or read them. I am embarrassed and ashamed for you, based upon what you have written here in your statements.

    If you would, please enumerate the statutes, laws, or Amendments that clearly state that a person cannot conduct business in the course of protesting or demonstrating. I wish to be enlightened.

    This is very obviously not a publicity stunt, but a real statement of beliefs and a lawful, peaceful action, which is ostensibly protected by law.

    We, the People have a right to peaceably gather, speak our minds and lawfully protest anywhere at any time. As long as no laws were violated, as clearly was the case here, BoA has to suck it up and live with it.

    Union picket lines are a great example of protesting where the problem is. How many times have unions gone on strike and picketed the very places they work?

    Any “news” outlet that would not cover this, or any other such demonstration should hand in its press passes. They are not news outlets, they are propoganda machines run by their controlling directors. Any reporter who would not cover this should hang their head in shame, for this is a prime example of people using their collective voice to send a statement. It is newsworthy.

  6. Idrathernotsay says:

    Falcon15: We who care about the quality of our lives and our society can all be grateful that you are not in position to make, interpret, or enforce any laws.

    From the tone of your response it is clear you aren’t even a wannabe reporter or a wannabe lawyer.

    You are a wannabe dictator.

    Your personal version of the First Amendment would legitimize people staging a group protest, not merely on a public street outside the home of someone they objected to, but INSIDE that person’s home or place of business. Or — here’s an example that should resonate with readers of this blog — not merely outside an abortion clinic, but INSIDE THE CLINIC BUILDING. Perhaps anti-abortion protesters (by your “reasoning”) could even assert a right under the “First Falcon15 Amendment” to stage their protest inside the operating room where an abortion was being performed. And have TV crews in there covering them.

    Good luck finding a lawyer to support your version of “the Constitution says it because I say so.”

    Or finding a real-life reporter, editor, journalism professor or other credible authority who would voice anything but disgust for your attempt to impose your fascist views of what media should or should not cover.

  7. Falcon15 says:

    Very nice try. However, I did stipulate very clearly – as long as they are peaceful and no laws were violated. You must have missed that part.

    To whit: Honest answer: it sucks to be the business being protested against but as long as the protestors are peaceable, and follow the laws, they have a right and a responsibility to assemble publicly, peaceably protest, and speak their minds in the every state in the USA.

    Demonstrating *inside* someone’s place of business is a violation of law. Not being allowed to conduct business is another matter entirely. If the demonstration is outside, and persons move inside to conduct business, no violation of law exists, to my knowledge. Again, please feel free to educate me as to the laws and or statutes that prevent or prohibit a protester from conducting business during the course of a demonstration. I am interested.

    Typically people read the entirety of a post before trying to counter it. Nice use of the Dictator and Fascist lines though. One way to attempt to destroy someone’s credibility, but this time, it did not work. You skimmed, at best, my response, then came back with your snappy reply. The First Amendment is what it is. If they do not violate any local laws and ordinances, as I clearly stated in my previous post, they have a right and an obligation to protest. Period. You then go on to skew your very point of a demonstration *outside* of the bank, even outside the front door by moving said protest into a place of business. Survey says? BZZZZZZZZ Wrong answer. Good try though. Keep working at it, I am sure your rebuttals will get better.
    Again, I am embarrassed for you. Shame that you don’t bother to read a post reply in its entirety.

    • Idrathernotsay says:

      Falcon, on reading your rejoinder, I get a strong sense that your only exposure to the law was obtained from the inside of a cell. Or maybe chewing the fat with a brother-in-law who’s a divorce lawyer.

      Does one need legal training to know that any business or private individual has the power to bar any individual or group from private property they control? For any reason (almost – see below), OR NO REASON? And ask the police to enforce that right?

      Yes, there are exceptions, such as race discrimination. But the First Amendment obviously is not among those exceptions. You can’t just go on someone else’s private property to make a public statement – even if their property is open to the public in the normal course of business – and then claim the owner must let you stay because you’re exercising your First Amendment rights. Good thing: I’d hate to see someone set up a counseling appointment at Planned Parenthood, bring 20 friends and a camera crew to hear her deliver an impassioned “pro-life” speech … and the clinic would be compelled to let her finish, pursuant to the First Falcon Amendment!

      I have no legal training myself, by the way. But I’m not the one who started off by preaching about what’s legal and what isn’t. That was you. (Note that Erich the blog owner, whose bio states that he DOES have legal training, has declined to corroborate your “It’s legal because I said so!” philosophy. That should tell us something.)

      Note, too, that commenters on the Daily Kos thread (about similar, more-recent protests at a NY Citibank branch) that Erich posted below in this thread, eventually reason their way up to endorsing my viewpoint. The Daily Kos commenters eventually figured out that it’s dumb and counterproductive to attempt any kind of group scene inside a bank branch, and is wiser to just make withdrawals quietly and individually (and perhaps privately informing the bank clerk of their reason), while making any related public statements at a time and place separate from bank property. Plus, it avoids risk of being arrested for trespassing (as some 30 people were at the Citi protest).

      It is also evident from your most recent comment that you are addicted to having the last word. Therefore I have pegged you as a certain widespread type of online pest (although the conventional word is rather mild, I will avoid using it in case the moderator would object), and will not reply to you again, whatever repetitive and juvenile failed-attempt-at-snark you might post here to get that last-word fix.

  8. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    To: Idrathernotsay,

    You chose to call the protest a “publicity stunt”, but in your mind are there any protest that are NOT publicity stunts?. When the TEA party stages a protest, is it not a publicity stunt. In fact all protests may be classified as publicity stunts.

    You seem bent on upholding BOA’s dictation of it customers rights. You argue that the move your money protest was a run on the bank, but the size of the crowd did not represent 10 percent of the bank’s depositors, and there is no requirement that the money be removed as cash. It could be moved by an EFT, or even by the issuance of money orders of corporate or cashiers checks.

    As for the weak Ad Hominem attack on Erich and Tim
    http://www.simonlawpc.com/meettheattorneysdetail.php?id=11
    and
    http://www.aplawyers.com/c/10/Attorneys/Saint-Louis/Missouri/Law-Offices-of-Timothy-E-Hogan-$125654.html

    As for myself:
    I am not a lawyer, I do not play one on tv, nor do I claim any expertise in the law.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    Daily Kos reports that 30 Citibank customers have been arrested for closing their accounts as part of a protest.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/15/1026740/-Breaking:-30-Citibank-customers-arrested-for-closing-their-account

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Now there is a report that a group of CitiBank customers has been arrested for trying to close their CitiBank bank accounts. See this report and see this video:

    And see this report:

    “New York police said about 70 people had been arrested, including 24 at a Citibank branch in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, mostly for trespassing. Protesters said those arrested were trying to close their accounts.”

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    Other banks are preventing their customers from closing out their accounts as acts of protest. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2049976/Banks-country-refuse-let-customers-close-accounts-protest.html

  12. Edgar Montrose says:

    Apparently the Laws of Thermodynamics now also apply to banking:
    You can’t win.
    You can’t break even.
    You can’t quit.

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