Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Arrests in Playland Incident Could Lead to Lawsuits
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
The 15 people arrested at Rye Playland last week are considering legal action against Westchester County, according to their lawyer. The arrests took place after Muslim attendees at the amusement park became irate when women in their group were told they would not be able to go on rides if they were wearing headscarves.
Attorney Lamis Jamal Deek, who represents all 15 men and women, said litigation is "a real possibility, especially if we don't see any reasonableness on the part of the District Attorney's office" in dismissing the charges against her clients.
"And considering the circumstances, especially in light of the fact that it was not until the arrival of the police department and law enforcement officials that the situation worsened and became physical, we hope that the district attorney's office would do its best to resolve this in the most just and fair and timely manner as possible, and we look forward to that resolution," Deek said.
Calls to the Westchester County District Attorney's office after office hours were not answered.
However, county officials addressed the incident during a public meeting on Tuesday, which was streamed online. One official noted that "the police response was appropriate" and argued that "the situation escalated and was rapidly deteriorating" when 25 members of the Westchester Police Department and "several" officers from the Rye Police Department arrived on the scene.
Another person told commissioners conducting the meeting that all details related to the Playland incident could not be discussed, given the threat of litigation.
The incident drew widespread attention, taking place on Eid, at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Muslim American Society organized the August 30 outing, which drew around 3,000 Muslim attendees.
Parks officials note that they had communicated Playland's policy forbidding headgear to organizers, well before the outing, but organizers admit that they failed to pass on the information to all attendees. Initially, parks officials said, Muslim attendees grew angry at M.A.S. organizers before turning on park rangers and police officers who arrived on the scene. However, attendees said they were not acting unlawfully, and that the police response was unnecessarily aggressive.
According to Deek, three of the 15 people arrested were women, including one minor.