The park was crowded with Muslims celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr, one of Islam’s two major holidays.
Police from at least nine agencies converged on the park after county police sought assistance in responding to the disturbance, which involved 30 to 40 people.
Another 13 people were arrested, most charged with disorderly conduct. All those charged were released by Tuesday night.
“It’s unfortunate because everybody just wants to be home with their families today,” said Zead Ramadan of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Parks officials “painstakingly” told the organizer about the headgear ban, said Tartaglia. But he said that the rules might not have been communicated by the organizer to some attendees.
Three accidents on Playland rides that killed two children and a park worker between 2004 and 2007 were unrelated to clothing the victims were wearing. But the headgear ban was among safety rules that went into effect after those deaths.
“It’s a safety issue on rides. If it’s a scarf, you could choke,” Tartaglia said.
Accounts of what happened varied, but everyone agreed the dispute began after parkgoers were told the headgear ban applied to women wearing traditional Muslim head coverings, known as hijabs.
Tartaglia said once word of that got out there were “a lot of unhappy people.”
Tartaglia said park officials were in the process of arranging refunds when members of the Muslim group got into a scuffle with each other.
Ramadan said he could see both sides.
“The people feel like victims, and the police feel like they were just doing their jobs,” Ramadan said. “Personally I think things got a little out of control on both sides.”
Lola Ali, 16, of Astoria said she witnessed a group of girls and women wearing hijabs go to park security to confront them about the headgear issue.
She said the women were upset and yelling. She said the security officers started pushing them away and the girls stood their ground, at which point the security officers grabbed them, pushed them to the ground and handcuffed them.
Men within the park saw this and tried to intervene, Ali said, and the situation went downhill from there.
“They were beating down the girls, then they started beating down the guys,” she said of the security officers.
Earlier, a park cashier told a Journal News reporter that a woman wearing a hijab either pushed or hit a ride operator who forbade her from going on the ride. She said a police officer tried to restrain the woman and the woman’s husband took offense, at which point a multiple-person fight broke out.
Brooklyn resident Amr Khater, who had come to the park about noon with his family, said his family was told about the hijab rule by park employees when they arrived.
“Everybody got mad, everybody got upset,” he said. “It’s our holiday. Why would you do this to us?”
Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It is a three-day period during which Muslims give to charity and celebrate their completion of Ramadan’s requirements with family and their community.
Contributing: (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News reporters Gary Stern and Tim Henderson