A man protesting a local New York county government has been spotted dangling from the Tappan Zee Bridge, a major NYC commuter bridge. After nearly three hours the man fell from the suspension which had been lowered close to the water. He was apprehended by authorities as he attempted to swim away.
The bridge hovers above the Hudson River connecting Rockland and Westchester County near New York City. The protester was hanging from the bridge over the river suspended by a rope ladder and holding a blue banner which read "Rockland Executive Legislative Coverup Retaliation" and other messages that were unclear. The protester was apparently tied to a car parked on the bridge. The LoHud.com writes that the sign is possibly expressing anger toward County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef.
WABC-TV has had live (albeit intermittent) video of the ongoing incident.
Four boats are below the protester and two helicopters appear to be flying above as police are arriving at the scene to talk to the demonstrator. Traffic has been backed up along the New York state Thruway for miles through Rockland County.
CBS New York reports that the incident apparently began shortly before 11:00a.m.
A spokesman for the Rockland County executive, C. Scott Vanderhoef, tells NBC New York "we don't know who he is... we hope he comes down and tells the county executive or the legislature what is of concern to him."
The local Nyack-Piermont Patch alleges some detailed information on the protester:
"The man hanging off the Tappan Zee Bridge is Michael Davitt, a Rockland County resident who has appeared at several county council meetings alleging that he had wrongfully lost his job with the county, according to Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik.
Davitt, of West Haverstraw, has for the past several years conducted one-man protests in front of the Rockland County Office Building in New City and has repeated spoken before sessions of the Rockland County Legislature. Kralik described Davitt's comments to the Legislature as 'somewhat threatening' and related to the loss of his job at the county's health complex in Pomona."
The LoHud.com writes that a captain from the Rockland Sheriff's Department says the man is Michael Davitt of Garnerville, who is "known as a gadfly who protests at Rockland Legislature meetings." According to the LoHud, Davitt worked as a substance abuse counselor and had left the county in 2008.
Davitt has frequently displayed odd behavior at meetings, and “There was a concern by the Legislature and they requested the deputy because they felt threatened by him."
Davitt has carried signs up and down the sidewalk in front of the Allison Parris County Office Building, including one that read “Indict Vanderhoef."
C. Scott Vanderhoef has been the County Executive of Rockland County, New York, since 1994. In 2006 he was the Republican and Conservative Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor.
CBS News reports that shortly before 2 p.m., authorities managed to lower the rope ladder down toward a boat waiting below, where Davitt jumped in the water a few feet from the surface. He tried to swim away, but was picked up by a Yonkers Police boat.
Rockland County spokesman Ron Levine confirmed to the AP that the man is a former employee with the county's department of mental health, who was let go because he was unable to perform his duties. Levine said the man had applied for disability payments and had been approved.
"This is bizarre," Levine said. "This is a very strange way of making a point."