Police investigating ‘hate crime’ after group dress as Ku Klux Klan in Co Down

Group were pictured outside an Islamic centre in Newtownards, say reports

People dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes protesting outside a mosque in Newtownards. Photograph: Alan Lewis/Photopress Belfast

People dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes protesting outside a mosque in Newtownards. Photograph: Alan Lewis/Photopress Belfast

 

Police are investigating a possible hate crime following the report of a group dressed as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members in Newtownards, Co Down at the weekend.

PSNI inspector Richard Murray said: “We received a report around 5pm yesterday, Sunday 29 October, about a group of people dressed as Ku Klux Klan members in the vicinity of Greenwell Street in the town on Saturday night (27th October).

“We are also aware of images that are circulating that show people dressed as Ku Klux Klan members. Our enquiries are ongoing, and we are treating this as a hate incident at this time.

“Hate crime, in all its forms, is totally unacceptable. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure that we live in a society where diversity is respected”.

In one of the images posted on social media over the weekend, the group of around 10 people are pictured in a threatening pose, some with fists raised, outside the town’s Islamic Centre, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Alliance Party Stormont Assembly member Kellie Armstrong said the group drank in a local bar with their masks off and CCTV evidence could be available.

She added: “Everyone knows exactly what the KKK stands for.

“The KKK represents a brand of hatred not wanted or welcome in the area.

“This group did not simply dress up for Halloween, rather they deliberately posed outside the prayer house in Newtownards.

“This is a clear demonstration of aggression and bullying towards one particular religion and that is a hate crime.”

Ivanka Antova, chair of United Against Racism Belfast, said this was a very disturbing and completely unacceptable act of hostility. “Some will brand it as an inappropriate choice of Halloween costume but this should be viewed as a hate crime. This is the latest proof that racism and inciting fear in ethnic minorities is being normalised here. People on the street have approached us, saying they are openly racist. This is incredibly intimidating for migrants living here and distressing for the majority of people who do not want to see racism in their communities”.

Last year a pig’s head was placed outside the same centre in Newtownards. – Additional reporting from PA