UPDATE: This story has been updated from an earlier version.
RYE, N.Y. – A dispute over Playland’s policy of prohibiting headgear on several rides led to the arrest of 15 Muslim-Americans Tuesday afternoon and left two park rangers injured.
According to Westchester County Police Chief Inspector John Hodges, the incident started as a private argument between customers who had been denied access to certain rides for wearing hijabs, traditional headscarves for Muslim women.
The dispute escalated, drawing a throng of police officers from across multiple departments to shut down the disturbance.
A group of around 3,000 Muslim-Americans had gathered at Playland to celebrate Eid, an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting.
Some women complained about being denied access to rides for wearing hijabs at the ticket booth and requested refunds, which were issued. Park officials said an altercation arose among the patrons When park security intervened, the incident escalated.
“Some things the Muslim community feel is inappropriate, law enforcement may feel is necessary,” said Zead Ramadan, president of the board of directors for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who spoke at a press conference Tuesday evening.
Friends and family of the 12 men and three women who were arrested said they felt law enforcement had used unnecessary force and were disrespectful in how they treated the women. They said that prompted the men to intervene, escalating the incident. The health status of those in custody remains unknown.
“It was no different than any other arrest made,” said Hodges.
The majority of those arrested are being charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and there are at least two charges of felony assault on a law enforcement officer.
Park officials reiterated that the headgear policy was made known in advance to the organizers of the event, and that it was the organizers’ failure to inform members of their group that resulted in the initial altercation.
“There was some misunderstanding,” said Ahmed Jamil, one of the event organizers. “There was the perception that this policy was invented today. People were very offended. I urge the park to reevaluate this policy.”