A melee erupted at an amusement park outside New York City after Muslim visitors became angry that women wearing headscarves were barred from rides. Two park rangers were injured in the scuffle at Playland Amusement Park in Rye, N.Y., and 15 people were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and assault.
About 30 to 40 people were involved in the brawl and as many as 100 police officers from several departments were brought in to quell it, officials said. The trouble began when a group of Muslims on a special outing celebrating the end of the holy period of Ramadan were informed headgear was not allowed on rides.
Dena Meawad, 18, of Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News
that things got out of hand after one woman, Entisal Ali, began arguing with police about the policy.
“The cops started getting loud with her and she started getting loud, too. They pushed her on the ground and arrested her,” Meawad said, adding two of her male relatives went to help Ali and were beaten by officers.
“She just wanted to get on a ride. That was it,” Meawad told the Daily News. “It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim.”
John Hodges, chief inspector of Westchester County Public Safety, denied police used excessive force. Playland officials said the headgear ban was not directed at Muslims but was intended as a safety measure.
"Our . . . policy is designed to protect the safety of patrons,” county Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia told the New York newspaper Journal News
. “Depending on the ride, it can become a projectile that hurts someone else, or it could strangle you if it got caught on something.”
Tartaglia said park officials had “painstakingly” explained this to the Muslim American Society of New York, the group that organized the outing, but that the rules may not have been passed on to all attendees.
Ayman Alrabah, 24, of Brooklyn told the Daily News she was not informed of the headgear ban until she tried to board a ride, adding her husband, brothers, and father were all handcuffed by police.
“They treated us like animals, like we were nothing,” Alrabah said. “They came with their dogs and sticks. We came to have fun.”
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