Ray Lewis, a former captain with the Philadelphia Police Department, joins protesters with Occupy Congress rallying in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Protesters staged a demonstration timed to coincide with the House's return to Washington from its holiday recess.
Lewis is the retired officer who joined in with Occupy Wall Street as NYPD raided Zuccotti Park for the first time last November, and was arrested during the protest that followed.
Eugene Davidovich, of Occupy San Diego conducted the interview with Lewis. Davidovich was one of the protesters kicked off the Greyhound bus in Amarillo while on his way to Occupy Congress.
Lewis was briefly detained by police on at the Capitol, but it was only to ensure that he was not carrying a gun with him, and he was then released.
Lewis discusses what inspired him to join the occupy movement, his thoughts on escalating police violence, as well as the threatening letters he has received from the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, and the Fraternal Order of Police. The retired captain gave those letters to the New York Times, and here's a look at what was in those documents:
The commissioner, Charles H. Ramsey, told Mr. Lewis in a letter dated Nov. 23, 2011 “to immediately cease and desist wearing, using or otherwise displaying any official Philadelphia Police Department uniform, badges or facsimiles thereof or any official departmental insignia.”
Mr. Ramsey continued, “Be advised that I am prepared to take any and all necessary actions to protect the honor and integrity of the Philadelphia Police Department.”
The letter from the Fraternal Order of Police informed “Brother Lewis” that the organization had received a grievance against him.
The motion, the letter said, was based on Mr. Lewis’s “comments and actions on or about Nov. 15-17, 2011, while dressed in a Philadelphia police captain’s uniform at the New York City Occupy Wall Street protest, which also resulted in his arrest.” It was signed by the organization’s recording secretary, Robert B. Ballentine.
Neither letter outlined any plan of action against Mr. Lewis, and it was unclear what action could be taken.
The New York Observer asked the Philadelphia Police, after the news report of the letters sent to Lewis, exactly when was it inappropriate for an officer to wear his uniform when not on active duty:
“It depends on the place, and it depends if citizens regard the officer as acting on behalf of law enforcement,” Lt. Evers told us over phone today.
“Even though Captain Lewis is a retired officer, every officer knows you have to be middle-road with anything. Some people might be okay with him wearing his uniform during the rally, and he certainly has the right to exercise his first amendment rights…but imagine how people would react if this was a Ku Klux Klan rally and an officer showed up supporting it in uniform. People would go crazy.”
Lt. Evers than advised us that the Ku Klux Klan example had been used in the Commissioner’s speach earlier this morning.
So there you have it: it’s up to the police officers arresting you if wearing your uniform while not on duty is illegal, but ethically, it’s equivalent to showing support of the Klan.
Lewis also issued a challenge to all law enforcement officers, "To watch this documentary("Inside Job") and then to still come out [here] and defend corporate America."
"Inside Job" won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards in 2011. The film was written and directed by Charles Ferguson, who also authored and directed award-winning documentary film based on the events leading to the Iraq war, "No End in Sight."
Have a look at "Inside Job" in the preview clip below,