Rye Playland, a small Amusement Park in New York’s Westchester County, was briefly shut down Tuesday, after officials refused to allow female Muslim customers to go on rides unless they removed their headscarves. Fifteen people, including three women, were arrested for disorderly conduct.
The park was packed with about 3,000 Muslim customers, many of whom had come as part of tour groups to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Park officials insist they told tour operators about the ban on headgear, which applies to all headwear. “Part of our rules and regulations, which we painstakingly told them over and over again, is that certain rides you cannot wear any sort of headgear,” said the deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks. “It’s a safety issue for us on rides, it could become a projectile.”
According to the NY Daily News, the confrontation with officials began after several women were refused access to some of the park’s rides.
One female park visitor reportedly began arguing with police about the head scarf rule. Then witnesses tell the News that the woman’s relatives were tackled by officers and handcuffed when they tried to assist the woman.
“We requested a refund and all of a sudden an argument became a riot,” the woman’s sister says. “Cops came. They were hitting my brother, my dad. My husband was on the floor and they were handcuffing him…. They treated us like animals, like we were nothing… They came with their dogs and sticks. We came to have fun.”
After the incident, about 100 police officers converged on the amusement park, which was closed for two hours. Park officials say all customers were offered refunds.
Rye Playland’s ban on headgear was implemented after three accidents on rides killed a park worker and two visitors several years ago. None of the accidents were related to clothing worn by the victims. In interviews with reporters, a park official defended the policy: “Something flying off your head could land on the track. … If you have a scarf on, you could be choked.”