A melee broke out Tuesday afternoon at Playland Amusement Park in Rye, New York, as Muslim visitors became angry when the park enforced a longstanding safety-related ban on headgear on some rides.
Park officials said the no-scarf rule on thrill rides was adopted in 2007 to avoid the risk of strangulation. It was the result of a safety study after three deaths at the park between 2004 and 2007.
Playland was crowded with Muslims celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of the month-long Ramadan daily fast. 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, according to Rebecca Baker and Jonathan Bandler, reporting for the Westchester Journal-News.
Police in at least 60 vehicles from at least nine agencies converged on the park beginning at 3 p.m. after police asked for back-up and reported a disturbance, which reportedly involved Muslims fighting with other Muslims.
The Journal-News reported:
Two security guards 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 released, and all those charged were released by Tuesday night.
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.
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.
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.
Brooklyn resident Amr Khater, who had come to the park about noon with his family, said his family was told about the hijab rule by park employees when they arrived.
“Everybody got mad, everybody got upset,” he said. “It’s our holiday. Why would you do this to us?”
Playland’s policies, posted on its website, include: “All items and clothing must be appropriately secured while on a ride; some smaller items can be stored/secured in cargo pockets or waist pouches. Hats must be secured, and jackets/sweaters must be worn properly and not around the waist while on a ride. Some rides do not allow backpacks, purses or head gear of any kind.”