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Hate crime investigation after men in KKK hoods and costumes seen in Co Down town

The men were reportedly seen outside an Islamic Prayer Centre and inside at least one bar.

A KKK rally in the US state of Maryland in 1992. (File photo)
A KKK rally in the US state of Maryland in 1992. (File photo)

POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING a potential hate crime after several men were seen dressed in Ku Klux Klan attire in Newtownards, Co Down last night.

Images of the men were shared on social media also showing them carrying a number of wooden crosses and wearing hoods. 

The men were reportedly seen outside an Islamic Prayer Centre and inside at least one bar.

“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,” PSNI Inspector Richard Murray said today.

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. 

Local DUP MLP Peter Weir said that people dressing as KKK members “is totally unacceptable”.

“The Klu Klux Klan is a deeply repugnant racist organisation and anyone happy to associate themselves with such a vile body is clearly a moron,” Weir said.

That such a large group of people took the time and the effort to get their costumes completely correct, and above all the fact that they chose to pose outside the Islamic Prayer Centre in Newtownards, takes this episode of stupidity to a more sinister connotation.

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said that the men were walking around the town must be seen as a “demonstration of agressession”: 

“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. These people were then photographed brazenly walking around Newtownards.” 

The PSNI are asking anyone who can identify the men or has any information on the incident to contact them.

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Rónán Duffy

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