Two men have been arrested in Northern Ireland on hate crime charges after a group dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes posed for a photograph outside an Islamic centre, police said Thursday.
The social media image showed nine people in white hoods carrying crucifixes close to the Bangladesh Islamic Centre in Newtownards on Saturday 27 October — when many revellers were out celebrating Halloween.
Police “have arrested two men, aged 33 and 36,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said in a statement.
Superintendent Brian Kee said police had carried our searches in Newtownards and had seized “a number of items”.
The men were both arrested “on suspicion of displaying written material to stir up hatred or arouse fear”, police said.
Both have been released on bail and a police spokesman told AFP the investigation remained open.
Last weekend the paper Sunday Life reported they had identified the man who took the pictures of the group.
They named him as Barry Good — a member of unionist paramilitary group the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
The paper said it was also aware of the identities of two of the “klansmen” — one a “major drug dealer” — but that it could not publish them for legal reasons.
When images of the KKK group were circulated on social media there were reports that the party, dressed in white robes and hoods, also visited bars in Newtownards.
The group posed for photos at a pub in the town with a woman by the name of Sharon Mellor — the partner of the leader of far-right group National Front, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
The publication produced an image of Mellor with an individual clothed in a blood-spattered KKK costume, holding a beer.
Mellor told the paper the people were “random strangers”.
“A few blokes were dressed up for Halloween, no idea who they were,” she added.
The paper also claimed Mellor “joked” three years ago about having tried to set fire to the same Islamic centre.
A pig’s head was left outside the centre in August last year.
The KKK — a white supremacist group founded after the abolition of slavery in the USA — is notorious for committing barbarous acts of violence against ethnic minorities.