RYE, N.Y. — A melee broke out Tuesday afternoon at Playland Amusement Park when Muslim visitors became angry that the park was enforcing its ban on headgear by prohibiting the women from wearing their traditional head coverings on some rides.
Police from at least nine agencies converged on the park beginning at 3 p.m. after county police sought assistance in responding to the disturbance, which involved 30 to 40 people.
Two rangers were injured while breaking up a fight between visitors, and two visitors were charged with felony assault, police said. Another 13 people were arrested, most charged with disorderly conduct. Names were not disclosed, and all those charged were released by Tuesday night.
One of the rangers suffered an injured knee and the other an injured shoulder, said Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia.
The park was crowded with Muslims celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr, one of Islam’s two major holidays. Most were from community groups in Westchester and New York City as part of a daylong event arranged by the Muslim American Society of New York.
“It’s unfortunate because everybody just wants to be home with their families today,” said Zead Ramadan of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Parks officials “painstakingly” told the organizer about the headgear ban, said
Tartaglia. But he said that the rules might not have been communicated by the organizer to some attendees.
Three accidents on Playland rides that killed two children and a park worker between 2004 and 2007 were unrelated to clothing the victims were wearing. But the headgear ban was among safety rules that went into effect after those deaths.
“It’s a safety issue on rides. If it’s a scarf, you could choke,” Tartaglia said.
Accounts of what happened varied, but everyone agreed the dispute began after parkgoers were told the headgear ban applied to women wearing traditional Muslim head coverings, known as hijabs.
Tartaglia said once word of that got out there were “a lot of unhappy people.”
Tartaglia said park officials were in the process of arranging refunds when members of the Muslim group got into a scuffle with each other.
Lola Ali, 16, of Astoria said she witnessed a group of girls and women wearing hijabs go to park security to confront them about the headgear issue.
She said the women were upset and yelling. She said the security officers started pushing them away and the girls stood their ground, at which point the security officers grabbed them, pushed them to the ground and handcuffed them.
Men within the park saw this and tried to intervene, Ali said, and the situation went downhill from there.
“They were beating down the girls, then they started beating down the guys,” she said of the security officers.
Earlier, a park cashier told a Journal News reporter that a woman wearing a hijab either pushed or hit a ride operator who forbade her from going on the ride. She said a police officer tried to restrain the woman and the woman’s husband took offense, at which point a multiple-person fight broke out.
In 2010 a Muslim woman was killed while riding a go-kart because of her head covering:
A young Muslim woman had died after her burkha became snagged in a go-kart.
The 24-year-old woman, who has not yet been named, died a terrifying death today when a fluttering part of her burkha became caught in the wheels of a go-kart she was driving near the town of Port Stephens, north of Sydney.
The Muslim clothing the woman was wearing flew back as she sped around the track and part of it became entangled in the go-kart's wheels.
She was strangled in a second and crashed the vehicle.