Tappan Zee Protester Hangs for 3 Hours Before Falling into Water

His sign talks about government "cover up."

A 54-year-old man who had been fired from his county job in 2008 spent more than three hours hanging from the Tappan Zee bridge on a rope ladder before he crashed into the water and was pulled into a police boat Monday.

Authorities tell NBC New York the protester is a known gadfly who has picketed officials in upstate Rockland County for years. Rockland County officials identified the man as Michael A. Davitt.

Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik said he sent a deputy to provide security during meetings after Davitt sent legislators letters "which some people considered threatening."     

"We decided to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't step over the line, and he never did,'' Kralik said. "Today he not only stepped over the line, he jumped over it.''

Davitt, wearing an American flag bandanna, sat on the bottom rung of a rope ladder that hangs from the bridge beginning at about 10:45 a.m. A 24-foot banner hung below him.

The blue banner, painted with yellow lettering, read: "Rockland Executive Legislature Coverup Retaliation" above some other words and numbers that could not be seen clearly.

As several boats positioned beneath Davitt just before 2 p.m., he fell into the water. He was then pulled into a boat.

The county executive's office said Davitt was let go in 2008 "because he didn't perform his job function as a substance abuse counselor."

"He applied for a disability retirement from the state and received one," said Ron Levine, a spokesman for the office.

Davitt started out his protest wearing a black long-sleeved shirt but then stripped down to a white tanktop. He sipped from a thermos as he sat on the ladder.

Traffic on the bridge was delayed throughout midday.

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