Arrests at Rides Park Over Headwear "Misunderstanding"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Fifteen visitors at Playland Park in Rye, N.Y., were arrested Tuesday afternoon following what park officials called a "misunderstanding" over a headwear policy.

    The Muslim-American patrons arrived as part of a tour group, and women were wearing traditional hijabs when they entered Playland Park sometime after 4 p.m., according to officials.

    The 3,000 visitors were celebrating the end of Ramadan and planned to spend the day at the park.

    When the women tried to gain entry on some rides, they were denied based on the park's policy of prohibiting headwear on rides -- including hats, scarves and flowing material -- for safety reasons.

    "It's my religion, it's my modesty," explained one of the women, Ola Salim, to NBC New York, afterward. Salim, who was not involved in the ensuing altercation, said, "Wearing a scarf is like wearing clothing to me, and to everybody else."

    But Westchester County deputy parks commissioner Peter Tartaglia said it was a safety issue, explaining, "If somebody wears some sort of scarf, it could be a strangling situation. If something goes on a track on a roller coaster, it could stop that ride and cause injury."

    The visitors were offered refunds at the front of the park, but some of the parkgoers started arguing with each other about the scarf issue. That's when security back-up was called in, and 100 police officers ended up on the scene.

    As police attempted to break up the frustrated crowd, a woman was slammed to the ground, her scarf ripped up by rangers, witnesses said, although Westchester County police chief John Hodges said he was "not aware of anything like that happening."

    Hodges said two park rangers were injured and were taken to a nearby hospital. The park was suspended for two hours between 4 and 6 p.m. during the incident.

    Fifteen patrons in the group were arrested and charged, according to officials.

    Officials said the headwear policy was explained to the tour operator, the Muslim American Society of New York, several times before the the trip.

    “This misunderstanding was very unfortunate,” Peter Tartaglia, deputy parks commissioner, said in a release. “Our headgear policy is designed to protect the safety of patrons and safety is our first concern. This policy was repeatedly articulated to the tour operator, but unfortunately the message did not reach some of the members of his group.”

    Tune in to NBC New York beginning at 11 p.m. for @IdaSiegal's report from Rye.