Haris Ntabakos,30,and Rodolfo Roberts,45,were given three warnings to leave the sidewalk before D.C. Metropolitan Police arrested them.
A small group of Occupiers spent the last five nights in front of the bank with sleeping bags and signs protesting banks in the United States. This new tactic is dubbed “sleepful protest” and it involves Occupiers sleeping in front of the Bank of America and a Citibank on K Street at the other end of the block.
The Citibank is across the street from McPherson Square,one of two sites Occupy DC has used since last fall. Police have prevented protesters from sleeping in the park,which is illegal,for the past several weeks.
Police arrived early Tuesday morning to warn protesters they needed to leave or be arrested. Most of the Occupiers complied and packed up their gear,but Ntabakos and Roberts decided to stay and get arrested.
“I’m sitting here,not breaking any laws and letting people walk freely,” Ntabakos said to a crowd of onlookers.
James Hill,45,who has been with Occupy since the end of September,said for five nights they have slept in front of the two banks,which he said does not break any city laws.
“Since the park police raided us on Feb. 5,many of the Occupy DC have been sleeping on the sidewalks out of necessity,which is within the law.” Hill said. “Since that time,we’ve studied the ordinances and talked to our lawyers,and sleeping on the sidewalks in D.C. is not against the law.”
Hill said the sleepful protest movement has spread to other cities through social media.
He said members of the Occupy New York movement found a court ruling that protects sleeping as a form of free speech.
The ruling Hill was referring to was a 2000 case in federal court in New York,Metropolitan v. Safir,in which Judge Kimba Wood ruled that protesters had the right to sleep on the sidewalk in front of the mayor’s house as long as they took up no more than half the sidewalk and did not impede pedestrian traffic.
Akridge,the company that manages the building where the Bank of America branch is located,released a statement saying it was pleased that the protesters had been removed. The statement said Akridge officials had met with bank officials and police. The statement said police assured the company that officers will continue to patrol the area.
A D.C. police spokesman said the department would have more information later in the day about the next step in the men’s case.
Three and a half hours later Ntabakos was released and went back to the corner of Vermont Avenue and L Street to continue protesting. Ntabakos said he has an April 26 court date.
“I told them I plan on getting arrested every six hours because I’m not breaking any laws,” Ntabakos said. “When I told them that,they just looked at me and laughed.”
Reach reporter Salvador Guerrero at [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.