BELFAST, United Kingdom — Northern Ireland police said Tuesday they were investigating as a hate crime reports that a group of nine people dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes posed outside an Islamic center.
A picture published on social media showed the group, also carrying crucifixes, close to the Bangladesh Islamic Centre in Newtownards on Saturday and there were reports of them visiting bars in the town.
A pig’s head was left outside the center in August last year, British media reported.
“We are treating this as a hate crime,” Inspector Richard Murray from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement.
The group also posed for pictures at a pub in the town with Sharon Mellor, the girlfriend of Tony Martin, leader of the fringe far-right group National Front, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
The newspaper published a picture showing Mellor with someone dressed in a KKK costume spattered with blood holding a beer.
She told the paper the people were “random strangers.”
“A few blokes were dressed up for Halloween, no idea who they were,” she said.
The paper said Mellor “joked” three years ago about having tried to set fire to the Islamic center in the town.
One of the pubs the group entered on Saturday night was The Spirit Merchant owned by JD Wetherspoon.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We can confirm that a group dressed in KKK clothing came to our pub.
“They were refused entry by door staff, but pushed past them into the pub. They were told by bar staff that they would not be served. They remained in the pub for five minutes, unserved, and then left.”
The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist group founded in the 19th century after the abolition of slavery in the United States.