Headgear ban at NY amusement park sparks scuffles

NEW YORK—A ban on religious and other head coverings on rides at a suburban amusement park on Tuesday sparked scuffles leading to 15 arrests.

Rye Playland, just north of New York City, was crowded with roughly 3,000 visitors from a Muslim tour group celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

Disputes broke out after women wearing traditional Muslim scarves called hijabs tried to get on rides that prohibit any head coverings for safety reasons, Westchester County officials said. The women were offered refunds. But then male and female visitors started to argue among themselves, according to a statement from the county executive’s office. Two park rangers who intervened were injured and were hospitalized.

The tour operator, the Muslim American Society of New York, had been advised of the rule numerous times before the event, parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

The group did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday night.

Tartaglia defended the policy against head coverings on rides as a safety precaution. He said scarves can become entangled in mechanical parts, choke riders or fly off and land in a ride’s tracks. He faulted the tour operator for not ensuring the visitors understood the policy.

“We respect the religious purpose of wearing it, but we have several rides that you cannot go on with any sort of headgear,” he said.

The park entrance was closed for two hours as police responded to the scene. More than 6,000 people were in the park at the time.

Tartaglia said all the people arrested were later released. Westchester County officials would not say what the charges against them were.

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