Former Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Lewis is in front of the Municipal Services Plaza to raise awareness about an April 2 hearing in which the Fraternal Order of Police will consider a grievance filed by Pension Director Henry Vannelli.
“They didn’t say the exact nature [of the hearing], but the fact that it was filed by the pension director – it’s obvious,” he said. Lewis believes that the organization is trying to boot him out and suspend his retirement benefits.
The force veteran made headlines when he was arrested in November while participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement. He received letters from Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and the FOP several days later demanding that he cease and desist wearing his Philadelphia Police Department uniform while protesting.
“In this threatening letter where [Ramsey] tells me to cease and desist immediately or he’ll take all necessary actions, that what I’m doing is improper and illegal, he fails to cite one law that I’m violating,” Lewis said.
“How can you tell someone what they’re doing is improper and illegal, order them to stop and say you will take all and any necessary actions and not cite one single law that I’m violating? That is the epitome of a thug letter.”
Lewis drew throngs of curious onlookers as he stood on the corner of 15th Street and JFK Boulevard in full regalia next to large signs reading, “Mayor Nutter: Do you approve of Police Commissioner Ramsey’s ‘thug letter’? Yes or no?” and “FYI Charles Ramsey without civil disobedience you are not police commissioner anywhere!”
He said he’s received mixed reactions on the street. “The support I’ve been getting has been 99 percent minorities, 99 percent black people who realize how corporations are suppressing them,” he said.
Lewis also came to town to testify at last Thursday’s hearing before the Department of Health about Mayor Michael Nutter’s controversial proposed ban on feeding the homeless outside. “I came out and said that, as a 24-year member of the police department, I feel that stopping people from feeding the hungry is unconscionable,” he said.
He called Nutter’s claims that the measure would give the homeless more dignity by regulating food safety “pure corporate propaganda.”
Below are the letters from Ramsey and the FOP and Lewis’ responses, which he sent out to the public as press releases. “I did not respond to either of them personally because that would only empower them,” he said. “They are not worthy of my response.”