Police are investigating a "sinister" incident in east Belfast yesterday during which a gang of masked men were filmed patrolling the streets.
Video circulating on social media shows more than two dozen men with their faces covered walking through the Pitt Park area, just off the Newtownards Road. The footage, which appears to be shot a short time later, shows police in attendance, who then disperse the crowd while monitoring the gang as they leave the area.
In a brief statement, a PSNI spokesperson said officers attended the scene after reports of suspicious masked men in the vicinity of the Newtownards Road. Enquiries are continuing.
It is understood loyalist paramilitaries may have been behind the incident, with speculation focusing on the UVF.
The East Belfast DUP said there have been a number of "worrying" incidents in the area recently. "Homes attacked, families intimidated and community living in fear. Today we saw a severe escalation of that in Pitt Park," it said.
"It has to stop. East Belfast deserves better. The PSNI need to get a group and show such action will not be tolerated."
Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey added: "It is deeply concerning to see footage circulating this afternoon appearing to show a group of over 40 men patrolling the streets of east Belfast," he said.
"This gathering is sinister and looks to be an attempt to exert control over the community of east Belfast.
"The PSNI, who attended the scene, must thoroughly investigate this afternoon's incident and ensure that criminal gangs are held accountable for their actions."
PUP councillor for the area, Dr John Kyle, condemned the incident.
"I was made aware of this incident earlier today and it is extremely serious and a matter of great concern," he said.
"It looks as if these people were moving with purpose, they are organised and there is clearly at least an intent to intimidate. This was in a residential area in the middle of the day. This has to be deplored. This is not the sort of thing we want to see happening in east Belfast.
"I was glad to see the PSNI attended and they seem to have been able to disperse the crowd fairly quickly. I would urge the PSNI to investigate this incident. There is no place in our society for this kind of behaviour."
The incident comes just over a week after a couple escaped injury in a shooting incident involving masked men in nearby Lewis Drive.
Several men tried to force their way into a house in the early hours of January 22.
They smashed windows and damaged a car parked in the driveway, before making off on foot. Two shots were fired, according to reports. There were no reports of any injuries.
Justice Minister Naomi Long described the attack as "very disturbing", while the DUP's East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said he was "appalled" by it.