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Occupy Wall Street Protesters Sue Over Citibank Arrests

MANHATTAN (CN) - Police officers manhandled a Citibank client as she tried to close her bank account in support of Occupy Wall Street, the woman claims in a federal civil rights case marking the first of its kind from the heart of the movement.

On Oct. 15, aspiring nursing assistant Heather Carpenter, 23, marched to a Manhattan Citibank branch with a group of demonstrators and Columbian immigrant Julio Jose-Artunduaga, who is now her fiancé. Carpenter planned to close her Citibank account, protesting a new $17 monthly maintenance fee that the bank said it would charge if her account dipped under $6,000.

New York City Police Chief Joseph Esposito allegedly ordered the bank to barricade its doors and then had officers arrest the protesters.

Video exhibits appear to record Esposito announcing, "You're all under arrest." Recordings of the arrests went viral, attracting more than 375,000 views online.

Carpenter says one unidentified officer grabbed her by her left arm when she hit record on her iPod, stating, "Excuse me, Miss, you have to come with me. You were inside like everybody else."

She says she replied, "I'm a customer," and took out a receipt from her purse to prove it.

After Jose-Artunduaga tried to escort Carpenter away, an officer identified as Doe 1 allegedly grabbed her from behind and cupped his hands under her breasts.

An attached photo exhibit documents the alleged grope.

One nearby officer told his colleague, "'Watch it,' and pointed to Doe 1's offensively placed hands," according to the complaint. "Doe 1 immediately released his grip, assuming a jazz hands position."

"As his fiancée was being taken away from him, Julio stood with both hands in the air, motioning 'why?'" the complaint states.

Three officers then allegedly pulled him back inside the vestibule of the bank.

He says they kicked the back of his knee, tightly cuffed him and deeply cut his index finger.

One exhibit shows his bloody finger making a peace sign as he is escorted into a police van.

The couple says they were incarcerated for about 32 hours and then released on their own recognizance.

On Nov. 14, the district attorney announced that he would dismiss the charges against them, the complaint states.

They seek punitive damages for false arrest, excessive force and municipal liability.

They are represented by Lea Spiess of the Law Office of Ronald L. Kuby.

Kuby told Courthouse News it was the first federal suit of its kind in New York, but others like it would follow.

Carpenter and Jose-Artunduaga say they plan to tie the knot on July 28, 2012.

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