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1 Dec, 2011 05:43

Crossing police lines: US cops defect to OWS

Almost 5,000 people have been arrested during Occupy protests across the US since the movement started on September 17 in New York. And as it is showing no signs of slowing, even some police seem to be defecting to the other side.

Retired Philadelphia police Captain Ray Lewis became the game changer on November 17.  Arrested while demonstrating with Occupy protesters on the streets of New York City, the 24-year veteran of the force was held in police custody for 11 hours and received one comment from a New York cop.“Nobody talked to me. This one individual later on told me that I had the testicles of an elephant,” says Ray Lewis. Occupy Wall Street has become an undeniable American household name.Police crackdowns against the democratic movement have become something of the norm. But what is not so normal is seeing one side endorse the other.Although all of America’s police force is part of the 99 per cent, Captain Lewis says cops secretly supporting OWS face dire consequences by going public.“A tremendous fear of losing their job. Being disciplined, being fired and then what do they do?  Everybody in the 99 per cent have that fear and police officers also. They have children, they have wives. What would they do if they were fired? There are no jobs available,” Lewis says. The arrests of dozens of journalists covering the story at the Zuccotti Park are among many reasons Captain Lewis says he temporarily transplanted to Manhattan.“That’s close to a dictatorship. When you exclude the media, that’s what dictators from all over the world do and that is very scary,” he says.Despite his arrest, Captain Lewis is back at Zuccotti Park, showing unwavering support for the Occupy movement, standing nearby a group of New York City police officers. They are here securing the area, but some are beginning to show a little interest.“For the first time, I had an officer break ranks at the barricade line. A white officer named Officer Murray. He introduced himself and he started asking me a few questions and I asked ‘Do you know the risk you’re taking?’ He was so brave that he said, ‘Hey this is still America and until a supervisor orders me back to the line, I’m going to talk with you.’"I hope to get mainstream America involved, the police involved. Realizing we’re all victims of corporate America and that corporate America has got to be stopped,” Lewis says. Oakland police Officer Fred Shavies is the only active cop who has gone on record with his support.  “I totally agree with Occupy Wall Street. Even to an extent with Occupy Oakland. I am a part of the 99 per cent. For the most part people are peaceful and they want to see change,” Shavies says. Brutal scare tactics such as pepper spray, batons, and flash grenade canisters have been used against Occupy camps throughout the US. Oakland, California, resembled something of an urban war zone this fall, leaving a war veteran in critical condition and the eyes of an 84-year-old burning from tear gas.Many in the US believe the biggest change, what the protesters across the country are demanding, could come when or if law enforcement officials stop suppressing the right to assemble and begin supporting it.Meanwhile, nearly 300 arrests have been made in Los Angeles as the police have cleared one of the last and longest-standing Occupy camps, the Occupy LA City Hall Camp.