Retired Philadelphia police officer wears uniform at Occupy Philly event

A protester adjusts the hat of Ray Lewis at an Occupy Philly event in front of Independence Hall.
A protester adjusts the hat of Ray Lewis at an Occupy Philly event in front of Independence Hall. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 14, 2012

Retired Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Lewis, who gained national attention with his defiant, in-uniform protest and subsequent arrest at Occupy Wall Street, made his first appearance with Occupy Philly on Monday afternoon.

Lewis, 60, had been chastised in letters from Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and the Fraternal Order of Police after he was arrested in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park on Nov. 17, wearing his old uniform.

Again donning his uniform Monday on Independence Mall, Lewis asserted his right to free speech, calling his choice of clothing a "visual symbol" of the 24 years he devoted to police work.

"I will not idly stand by while law enforcement is administered only to the poor and disenfranchised while the rich flaunt their immunity," Lewis told a crowd of 40 occupiers and reporters gathered near a stone engraved with the First Amendment.

His address was part of a daylong Occupy event promoting freedom of speech that peaked with a march to the Comcast Center to submit a petition for the company to carry Al-Jazeera English.

He revved up the crowd before it proceeded down Market Street, even eliciting a "We love you, captain!" shout-out. He referred those who doubted his positions on corporate corruption to the Charles Ferguson documentary Inside Job.

Ramsey wrote previously that he was "prepared to take any and all necessary actions" against Lewis if he continued to wear the insignia of the Philadelphia police.

Lewis, who left the force in 2004 and moved to Upstate New York, maintains he is not in violation of a law against impersonating a public servant because he always informs those he meets that he is retired. Before joining Occupy Wall Street, he said, he spoke to a lawyer for the Philadelphia Police Department and was informed he could wear his uniform.

Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said the department was taking a "hands off" approach to the Lewis controversy.

"If he doesn't do anything illegal, we are not going to do anything," Evers said after Lewis' participation Monday.

The case against Lewis after his arrest in New York was dismissed provided that he is not arrested again within six months of the decision.

Lewis said he had no desire to be arrested for his role in Occupy Philly.

"Believe me, I'm 60 years old - I don't want to go to jail," he said.


Contact staff writer Liz Gormisky at 215-854-5626 or lgormisky@philly.com.

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