Wednesday, August 31, 2011
A theme park was forced to shut its gates to visitors when a mass brawl broke out after Muslim women were banned from rides unless they removed their headscarves
Two park rangers were injured and 15 people, including three women, were arrested in the scuffle at Rye Playland in New York. They have since been charged with disorderly conduct and assault. The incident started when the theme park was crowded with around 6,000 visitors. Roughly 3,000 were in a Muslim tour group celebrating a holiday at the end of Ramadan. Trouble flared when women wearing Muslim hijab scarves tried to get on rides banning any head coverings. The women were refused entry and offered refunds - but then male and female visitors started to argue among themselves, Westchester County officials said. That apparently led to park guards stepping in, sparking the huge brawl. The park entrance was closed for two hours as the fighting escalated. Two intervening park rangers were injured and hospitalized. A huge police response then saw 60 patrol cars and 100 police arrive from nine departments. The Muslim American Society of New York had been painstakingly advised of the rule banning head coverings on certain rides many times before its tour took place, parks official Peter Tartaglia said. He defended the policy against head coverings on rides for safety reasons and faulted the group for not ensuring visitors understood the policy. Tartaglia said that the policy is for safety, as scarves can become entangled in mechanical parts, choke riders or fly off and land in a ride's tracks.