On the other side

A former Phil­adelphia Po­lice cap­tain and com­munity lead­er from the Far North­east winds up on the oth­er side of the law at an Oc­cupy Wall Street con­front­a­tion in New York City.

Nine years ago, Ray Lewis told the North­east Times that he moved to Mech­an­ic­sville to be as far re­moved as pos­sible from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

As a Phil­adelphia po­lice cap­tain, he had to main­tain his home in the city, but the tiny Far North­east en­clave offered him a slice of peace­ful coun­try liv­ing. In fact, he liked it so much he even served as pres­id­ent of the Mech­an­ic­sville Civic As­so­ci­ation.

But Lewis sold his house in 2003, and the fol­low­ing year he re­tired from the po­lice force.

Then last week, he ended up on the front lines of the na­tion’s latest, most pub­li­cized urb­an con­flict — the con­front­a­tion between New York City po­lice and the Oc­cupy Wall Street pro­test­ers.

New York’s finest ar­res­ted Lewis last Thursday dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in now-no­tori­ous Zuc­cotti Park in Lower Man­hat­tan, in the shad­ow of the city’s fin­an­cial dis­trict and barely a block from the Na­tion­al Septem­ber 11 Me­mori­al. Lewis wore his old Philly PD cap­tain’s dress uni­form throughout the epis­ode and ap­par­ently was an act­ive par­ti­cipant in the protests.

Sev­er­al You­Tube post­ings doc­u­ment his pinch, which fea­tures rank-and-file New York cops in ri­ot gear lead­ing him away with plastic zip-ties bind­ing his wrists.

A widely pub­lished photo of Lewis shows him sit­ting on a side­walk with his back to a build­ing, wrists tied at his back and un­der po­lice guard. In­form­a­tion on the spe­cif­ic reas­on for his ar­rest was not im­me­di­ately avail­able. His cus­tody status is un­known.

Oth­er You­Tube clips pos­ted to the site a day or two be­fore his ar­rest show Lewis hold­ing protest signs and be­ing in­ter­viewed about his reas­ons for join­ing the Oc­cupy move­ment.

“They’re try­ing to get me ar­res­ted and I may dis­ap­pear,” Lewis told one am­a­teur in­ter­view­er. “I’m not go­ing to go to (state) pris­on, but as soon as I’m let out of jail, I’ll be right back here and they’ll have to ar­rest me again.

“I’m (the po­lice’s) worst en­emy, es­pe­cially with the white shirts, the bosses. Some of the fel­low cops, they maybe think, ‘That guy, he’s got a point. But (with) the bosses, I’m their num­ber one en­emy.”

Lewis’ ar­rest was widely re­por­ted as one of the key events of an event­ful day for Oc­cupy Wall Street, which de­clared Thursday its “Day of Ac­tion.” Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers staged sit-ins at sev­er­al in­ter­sec­tions around the New York Stock Ex­change re­portedly in de­fi­ance of po­lice, who ar­res­ted about 170.

An­oth­er news me­dia star of the day also hails from Phil­adelphia. Pho­tos of a blood­ied Brandon Watts, 20, led re­ports in the New York Daily News as well as the Daily Mail, Eng­land’s second-biggest selling news­pa­per.

Watts re­portedly claims to have been the first Oc­cupy act­iv­ist to set up camp in Zuc­cotti Park on Sept. 17.

But ac­counts of Lewis’ sen­sa­tion­al ar­rest quickly made him the head­liner in count­less print and broad­cast news re­ports and on the In­ter­net. His on­line videos have gone “vir­al,” as they say.

In one of the seg­ments, he holds up two hand­made signs dir­ec­ted at New York City po­lice. One states in all cap­it­al let­ters, “NYPD, Don’t Be Wall Street Mer­cen­ar­ies.” The oth­er states, “NYPD, Watch In­side Job Then Join Us.”

In­side Job is a 2010 doc­u­ment­ary film crit­ic­al of the role of the fin­an­cial ser­vices in­dustry in the na­tion’s on­go­ing eco­nom­ic crisis. Dir­ect­or Charles H. Fer­guson has ac­cused the fin­an­cial in­dustry of en­ga­ging in sys­tem­at­ic cor­rup­tion.

Lewis ex­plained his view to an in­ter­view­er: “You have to get rid of cor­por­ate Amer­ica. You have to get rid of the power that they have. You have to greatly con­trol every trans­ac­tion and what’s go­ing on there and ba­sic­ally you have to make them im­pot­ent, be­cause as long as they have the power they’re go­ing to con­tin­ue to ex­ploit and ma­nip­u­late the work­ing class.”

He counts the rank-and-file po­lice among the ex­ploited and ma­nip­u­lated, des­pite their con­flict­ing role with Oc­cupy Wall Street demon­strat­ors.

“All the cops are, they’re work­ers for the [na­tion’s richest] one per­cent and they don’t even real­ize they’re be­ing ex­ploited,” Lewis said.

In a sep­ar­ate video, Lewis said, “I’m try­ing to let [po­lice] know, ‘You’re one of us.’ And these bankers up here, they’re cut­ting [of­ficers’] health care, they’re cut­ting their pen­sions, they’re cut­ting their salar­ies and [of­ficers] don’t even know it. They’ve got to be­come aware of that.”

The North­east Times has not been in con­tact with Lewis — a former com­mand­er of the 25th Po­lice Dis­trict in North Philly — since he sold his place in Mech­an­ic­sville and re­tired from the force. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, he rarely hes­it­ated to speak pub­licly about is­sues close to his heart.

He lived in the neigh­bor­hood for about 17 years and served for many of those years as the civic as­so­ci­ation pres­id­ent. He fought against chron­ic il­leg­al dump­ing in nearby Ben­jamin Rush State Park and Poquess­ing Val­ley Park. He fought to ban small-game hunt­ing in Rush Park after, he claimed, shot­gun pel­lets fired by a way­ward hunter wounded him in the back as he stood in his back yard one day. He was not ser­i­ously in­jured in the shoot­ing.

Lewis took part in ef­forts to block fur­ther res­id­en­tial de­vel­op­ment of Mech­an­ic­sville in the 1990s and of­ten weighed in on plan­ning and con­struc­tion of the By­berry East In­dus­tri­al Park by the Phil­adelphia In­dus­tri­al De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion as well as plans by the now-de­funct Fair­mount Park Com­mis­sion to de­vel­op hik­ing trails and re­cre­ation­al fa­cil­it­ies in the nearby parks.

Nine years ago, Lewis said he hoped to keep Mech­an­ic­sville as rus­tic and peace­ful as it was when he moved out of Holmes­burg in 1986.

“I just walked in­to a Re­altor and said, ‘I want something in­side the city lim­its and as coun­try as pos­sible,’” Lewis told the North­east Times in 2002. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus