Retired Philly officer again protests in uniform
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A retired police captain who was arrested in uniform during an Occupy Wall Street protest last year joined demonstrators on the lawn of Independence Hall on Monday, saying he isn’t breaking any law by wearing his old uniform despite the city police commissioner telling him to stop.
Ray Lewis, who retired in 2004 after 24 years on the force, joined a group of Occupy Philadelphia protesters, again wearing his old uniform _ complete with an Occupy button on it. He said he wants to speak out against corporate greed and corruption.
“I have not violated any law” by wearing the uniform, the 60-year-old Lewis said. “I spent my entire career devoted to law enforcement, and I was proud of that.”
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told Lewis in a Nov. 23 letter to stop wearing the uniform, saying that retirees had no authority to do so and that he found Lewis’ conduct “disrespectful.”
The Fraternal Order of Police also asked him to stop wearing it, and its grievance committee is investigating the matter, said John McNesby, president of the local FOP lodge. Depending on the outcome of that investigation, Lewis could lose his FOP membership, meaning that the organization would no longer represent him and that he would lose his life insurance, McNesby said.
“We’re not going to put up with that here,” McNesby said of Lewis wearing the uniform while protesting. “He’s not a cop. He’s a retired cop. … Stop wearing the uniform.”
A police spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In November, Lewis became one of the faces of the Occupy Wall Street movement when he was arrested in full-dress uniform after blocking a street and ignoring police orders to move while demonstrating near the New York Stock Exchange. Last month, he took Manhattan prosecutors’ offer to get the disorderly conduct case closed without jail time or probation if he avoids getting arrested again for six months.
Lewis, who moved to upstate New York after his retirement, said he’s not doing anything illegal by wearing the uniform, noting that he’s not trying to impersonate a police officer.
“I have never tried to influence anybody with any false authority,” he said. “They could easily arrest me for impersonating a police officer. …The thing they won’t get is a conviction.”
Later Monday afternoon, Lewis took his anti-corporate message to the downtown Philadelphia headquarters of cable giant Comcast, which was being guarded by police and building security. He was among about two dozen activists from Occupy Philadelphia at the building, a frequent target of the movement.
Also on site were members of the Washington-based group Rethink Press, which delivered to Comcast a petition signed by more than 23,000 people asking the company to carry the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera English.
Lewis said he wasn’t previously aware of the demonstration on Al-Jazeera, but he supported that cause, too.
“If people don’t want to watch it, they don’t have to watch it,” Lewis said. “That’s what freedom of the press is all about.”
Comcast released a statement noting that company officials have met with representatives of Al-Jazeera in the past.
“We regularly examine our channel lineups and talk with a wide range of programmers to ensure that we are bringing the content that our customers want the most,” the statement said.
It also noted that Al-Jazeera English is streamed for free online.
Associated Press writer Kathy Matheson contributed to this report.
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