Video footage is now available of the incident that allegedly sparked Tuesday's massive fight at a New York amusement park, which apparently started after Muslim women were told they would not be permitted to wear their hijabs on rides because of safety concerns.
According to the New York Times, members of the Muslim American Society of New York -- which sponsored the Playland Amusement Park outing to celebrate the end of Ramadan -- began fighting among themselves after being told those wearing headscarves couldn't ride certain rides. There was pushing and shoving, which caused park rangers to intervene, including two who were injured.
Local TV station Fox New York obtained the dramatic home footage, which appears to show a group of police arresting a Muslim woman. According to witnesses, that incident prompted the larger, angry disturbance that resulted in 15 visitor arrests.
The New York Daily News spoke to Dena Meawad,18, who witnessed the woman's arrest:
"The cops started getting loud with her and she started getting loud, too. They pushed her on the ground and arrested her," Meawad said.
Her cousin, Kareem Meawad, 17, went to try to protect the woman and was beaten by cops and also arrested, she added. Her brother, Issam Meawad, 20, was pushed to the ground and taken into custody when he tried to help his cousin, she said.
"She just wanted to get on a ride. That was it," Dena Meawad said of the initial confrontation. "It's clear, this all happened because we're Muslim."
The New York Times spoke to Ola Salem, 17, who said she asked if she could join her 8-year-old sister on a ride:
“They said no because my of my ‘headgear,’ “ Ms. Salem said. “I said, ‘It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion.’ “
Ms. Salem said she asked to speak with a supervisor and was presented with a list of rides that would require her to remove her scarf. More than a dozen of the park’s rides, she said, were on the list.
Fox reported that the Westchester County Executive's Office said it was a "misunderstanding" that led to the disturbance, and that the Muslim American Society had been told the policy well in advance:
"The incident erupted when some of the women tried to gain entry on rides that prohibit any kind of headwear, such as hats, scarves and flowing material, which would include hijabs," according to a statement from the executive's office. "The tour operator, the Muslim American Society of New York, had been notified well in advance of today's event-numerous times both in writing and verbally-the county's policy on headgear for certain rides at the amusement park."
The patrons were offered refunds, the statement said, but then some men and women started arguing with each other, the statement said, "to the point that park security had to intervene. In the course of restoring calm, two park rangers suffered injuries and had to be taken to a nearby hospital."
Sharif Aly, vice president of the Muslim American Society of New York, told the Times his organization plans to investigate what happened before drawing any conclusions.
But Zead Ramadan, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' New York chapter, had some stronger words.
"In this heightened state of Islamaphobia, a woman wearing a hajib is an easy target these days," Ramadan told the New York Daily News. "Unfortunately, this turned ugly due to a lot of miscommunication."