Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: Gang dressed as Ku Klux Klan at Islamic centre in Northern Ireland

People dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes outside a mosque in Newtownards
People dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes outside a mosque in Newtownards
The group dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes walking through Newtownards

By Mark Bain and online reporters

Reports that a group of people dressed as Ku Klux Klan members posed outside an Islamic prayer house are being investigated as a hate incident.

Photographs of the group outside an Islamic Centre in Newtownards emerged online over the weekend.

The incident was reported to the PSNI on Sunday afternoon at around 5pm. Reports say the group was seen wearing the distinctive pointed-hooded costumes in the vicinity of Greenwell Street on Saturday night.

Inspector Richard Murray said: "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 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.

Strangford Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong called the photographs "unacceptable" and said she will be asking police to investigate.

"I've seen the pictures on Facebook and social media of this group of men, women or whatever," she said.

"Some people might try to say they were out for Halloween but I'd have to say if that's the case then these are certainly not the most appropriate costumes to be wearing.

"It is not appreciated by our community, it is not funny and it should definitely not be treated as a joke."

The Ku Klux Klan is a racist group established by white supremacists in the United States.

Ms Armstrong added: "Everyone knows the history of the Ku Klux Klan, what they stood for, the crimes the organisation committed and the connotations these outfits convey. This was not a mistake or an unfortunate choice of outfits.

"I certainly hope the PSNI are looking into it and I would see this as a hate incident.

"For someone to think these were a good ideas for costumes for Halloween, if that's what they actually are, is disgusting. That's not the image of Newtownards we want to be portrayed.

"It's bad enough that these people thought it appropriate to parade around the centre of the town in these costumes, but to then actually stop and pose outside the Islamic Centre and Mosque is pathetic.

"CCTV cameras are installed all around the centre of Newtownards and these individuals will have been caught on camera and I will be urging police to study the footage." DUP MLA Peter Weir said those behind the stunt were "morons".

"What sort of morons go about Newtownards dressed in KKK costumes?" he said.

"That the same group were then photographed outside the Islamic Centre clearly shows malevolent intent."

He added: "It is totally unacceptable."

In August 2017 a pig's head was left at the Islamic Centre's door and graffiti painted on the building.

Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting the reference 1066 with the date 28/10/2018.

The public can also contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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