Fifteen people were arrested at Rye Playland in New York on Tuesday, after a scuffle broke out between police and members of a Muslim-American tour group who had been barred from the rides because of the park’s “no head scarf” policy.
Rye Playland, in Westchester County, was shut down and fifteen people charged with disorderly conduct and assault after the incident, according to authorities. Three of those arrested were women, though its unclear how many were Muslim.
The Muslim American Society of New York had organized a trip to the park to mark the end of Ramadan, but a number of women in the group were prevented from going on rides — including the Catch-a-Wave ride, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the Dragon Coaster — because their heads were covered in the Muslim hijab.
Ola Salem, one member of the group, told the New York Times that park staff “said no because my of my ‘headgear.’” She added: “I said, ‘It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion.’ ”
Dena Meawad, another member of the group, said police pushed a woman to the ground after she argued with them about the policy, according to the New York Daily News. “She just wanted to get on a ride. That was it,” Meawad said. “It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim.”
Ayman Alrabah told the NYDN: “We requested a refund and all of a sudden an argument became a riot. Cops came. They were hitting my brother, my dad. My husband was on the floor and they were handcuffing him.”
According to the Westchester County Parks Department, members of the group were offered a refund, and many accepted. From the Times:
Then, the Parks Department said, about 20 members of the Muslim American group started fighting among themselves. Peter Tartaglia, the deputy commissioner of the department, said there was pushing and shoving, so some park rangers intervened. One ranger sustained an injured shoulder; another injured a knee.
Tartaglia said the park had the policy for three years, and it didn’t specifically single out Muslims. “We told them several times we have what we call a headgear policy, meaning there are certain rides where you can’t wear headgear of any sorts,” he said, adding: “If you have a scarf on, you could be choked.”
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