NORWALK – Mayor Richard Moccia hasn’t played football since the 60s, but he’ll always be remembered for the block he threw Thursday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
“It was the best tackle I’ve made in 40 years,” Moccia said after he returned home to Norwalk on Friday.
Moccia blocked a war protester from making her way to the convention floor during U.S. Sen. John McCain’s acceptance of the GOP’s presidential nomination.
The unidentified woman appeared to be with the anti-war group Code Pink: Women for Peace and was shouting “murderer” and “stop the war” as she and a second woman barreled down the steps at the Xcel Center arena.
The partisan audience immediately burst into chants of “USA! USA! USA!” as McCain quelled the crowd saying: “My friends, my dear friends . . . please, please don’t be diverted by the crowd noise and the static.”
The protesters were among more than 600 people arrested by St. Paul police during the four-day convention, at which the Connecticut delegation was sprayed with bleach and blocked by a human chain from entering the arena.
Moccia said his action was partially in self-defense to keep from being knocked down the stairs.
“She came running down and knocked another woman down on the stairs,” Moccia said. “She came running right for me, and I said to myself, ‘You’re not knocking me down, honey.’ ”
Moccia, 65, played on his squadron’s football team as an airman in the U.S. Air Force, where as a defensive cornerback, he said he didn’t have to tackle too many running backs.
Moccia said he put his shoulder down and took the hit, blocking the woman’s path to the floor, where Republican delegates, including U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, were listening to McCain’s speech.
Moccia, a former state marshal and city sheriff, said he was able to detain the woman until security officers arrived.
“I said, ‘She’s all yours.’ I didn’t want to get sued by the ACLU,” Moccia said.
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