Brawl Breaks Out at N.Y. Amusement Park Over Religious Head Scarves

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After female members of a group organized by the Muslim American Society of New York were denied entry to certain rides at Playland in Rye, N.Y. because of head coverings, a fight erupted and 15 people were detained by police.

The incident happened on Tuesday in the Westchester County park, where the society had organized a trip to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Some of the female visitors were told they could not get on certain rides because of a longstanding policy that prohibits any kind of headgear. Ola Salem, who was with the group, told the New York Times, “They said no because of my headgear. I said, ‘It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion.'”

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Park officials would not budge, saying that it was a safety issue. The park has had trouble with ride safety in the past — three people have been killed on rides there in recent years, though the deaths were not related to headscarves. Because more than a dozen of the park’s rides follow the headgear policy, the park offered to refund the money the visitors had paid for tickets.

According to Playland employees, after some of the group’s members proceeded to the ticket gate for refunds, the others who stayed behind began to fight among themselves. Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of the Parks Department, said there was pushing and shoving, so park rangers stepped in. One ranger sustained an injured shoulder; another had an injured knee.

Some of the society members, however, say the fight erupted when a Playland employee touched one of the women. But Tartaglia says park officials had no knowledge of that an employee doing so. The 15 people who were arrested were later released; two people were charged with felony assault, while others were charged with disorderly conduct.

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Frances Romero is a writer-reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @frances_romero or on Tumblr. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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