District Leader Protests Bank of America, Moves Money to East Village

Bank of America protestJared Malsin Occupy Wall Street protesters denounce Bank of America.

Earlier today, local Democratic Party official Paul Newell and three other people closed accounts at Bank of America with plans to move their money to local banks as part of a protest organized by Occupy Wall Street activists.

Mr. Newell, the Democratic district leader for New York’s 64th Assembly District, Part C, which includes parts of the East Village, wore a blue athletic headband with a pin displaying a version of the Bank of America logo altered to read “FU.”

As Mr. Newell and his girlfriend Marissa Brostoff, a doctoral student in English at the CUNY Graduate Center and instructor at Brooklyn College, approached a Bank of America branch across from Zuccotti Park on Broadway, a security guard asked them if they were involved with Occupy Wall Street and locked the door, refusing them entry.

photoJared Malsin Paul Newell and Marissa Brostoff attempt to enter
a Bank of America branch to close their accounts.

“I’m a customer with this bank,” Mr. Newell protested, slapping his debit card on the glass door, as a small crowd of bewildered customers began to gather outside. “They won’t let you in?” asked one woman. “You got your money in there? Oh my God, that’s like highway robbery!”

After trying for several minutes to gain entry, Mr. Newell and Ms. Brostoff jogged to another Bank of America branch at Broadway and Warren Street, where they were allowed in, one at a time. They closed their accounts while two police officers stood guard outside the door.

Mr. Newell told The Local he was closing his personal account because he felt the bank was “systemically dangerous.” He said, “It carries far more risk than its portfolio should allow. It is way too large for one institution in our financial services sector. All of that risk is carried by American taxpayers.”

Ms. Brotoff said she was surprised to receive such poor treatment from the bank. “I would not have expected that that they would be so explicit about their sense of threat by this campaign.”

Mr. Newell said he planned to move his money to East Village-based Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, where he already keeps his campaign accounts. Ms. Brostoff said she was moving her money to Amalgamated Bank.

Moments after closing their accounts, the two joined a noisy Occupy march back to Zuccotti Park. After being hoisted onto protesters’ shoulders, Mr. Newell briefly addressed the crowd, prompting cheers when he sliced his debit card in half.

Demonstrators later gathered outside the Stock Exchange, where, according to tweets from John Knefel, a writer and internet radio host who has covered Occupy Wall Street for Salon.com, police arrested two protesters.

The protest against Bank of America was the second one with East Village ties in the past few days.