The residents of one street in Belfast, Northern Ireland, woke up Tuesday morning to see a Ku Klux Klan flag flying from a lamppost. The extremist emblem immediately prompted public outrage, and local MPs filed a lawsuit.
The blue “New Order Knights” flag, including the inscription “Ku Klux Klan” was raised on a lamppost in eastern Belfast, British media reported.
The incident was immediately condemned by local authorities.
The use of flags hailing a hate group such as the KKK “is sickening” and “lends a further menacing element to recent events,” said Naomi Long, from the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.
“Yet again we see those who wish to bully anyone different from them use flags and emblems to assert dominance and control over a community,” she said. “To do so at all is to be condemned, but to put up these flags in broad daylight shows just how brazen the culprits are."
Long said it was essential that every right-thinking person unites against “those who engage in racist, bigoted or otherwise intolerant behavior.”
“It is also critical that the all-party talks this week stop ducking the issue of the use and abuse of flags and emblems for the purposes of intimidation, and face up to dealing substantively with this challenge to a shared future and to the rule of law,” she said.
Ku Klux Klan flags are now up flying in loyalist areas of east Belfast. pic.twitter.com/NBuqKNJAIR
— Mark Moloney (@MarkMoloneyDub) July 1, 2014
This latest incident adds an "even more sinister edge" to recent racist attacks in the region.
At least 982 racist incidents were reported in 2013-2014 by the annual Human Rights and Racial Equality Benchmarking Report for Northern Ireland. The numbers have grown from 2012-13, when 750 racist incidents were reported by the watchdog.
Despite a large number of cases, only 12 people were convicted for over 14,000 hate crimes in Northern Ireland in the last five years.
Those who are behind the xenophobic attack are showing "intolerance and provocative aggression," said Gavin Robinson, a council member from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
"It is a huge level of pathetic stupidity, especially on a week when many in the unionist and loyalist community came together to devise a strategy to combat racism," he said.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said that the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a Protestant paramilitary organization whose members have long history of violence and terrorist convictions, is behind racist attacks in the region.