Reports that a group of people dressed as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members posed outside an Islamic prayer house are being investigated as a hate incident, police said.
Images circulating on social media purport to show individuals dressed as members of the far-right group in a town close to Belfast over the weekend.
The KKK was a group based in the southern United States which was responsible for lynchings and mob attacks on black people.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) inspector Richard Murray said: “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.”
The suspected incident happened in the Co Down town of Newtownards.
The inspector added: “We received a report around 5pm yesterday, Sunday 28 October, about a group of people dressed as KKK members in the vicinity of Greenwell Street in the town on Saturday night.
“We are also aware of images that are circulating that show people dressed as Ku Klux Klan members.
“Our inquiries are ongoing, and we are treating this as a hate incident at this time.”
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.”
Last year a pig’s head was placed outside the same centre in Newtownards.