An under-pressure New IRA boss led a show of defiance on the streets of Derry yesterday in response to the MI5 arrests of nine dissident republicans.
Thomas Mellon was at the forefront of a group of demonstrators who staged a middle-of-the-road protest in the Bogside against "sectarian policing".
Among those in attendance were leading dissidents from Belfast and Newry.
They had planned to disrupt a meeting of the right-wing Irish Freedom Party in the city, which took place without any interference.
Mellon, who is on a 10-year MI5 terror watchlist, was pictured holding a poster in support of jailed dissident republican Zack Smyth.
The 60-year-old convicted robber and ex-Provo prisoner from Belfast was recalled to prison earlier this year over fears he had been engaging with paramilitaries - a claim he denies.
Mellon has been scathing in his criticism of New IRA members in Belfast who were infiltrated by suspected MI5 agent Dennis McFadden.
The Scotsman is accused of bugging houses used by members of the gang's army council, leading to nine prominent dissidents being remanded in custody charged with directing terrorism.
Mellon did not attend the summits - an absence seen as significant given his position as New IRA leader in Derry.
However, he has defended this position, saying he never trusted McFadden and pouring scorn on those who did.
Yesterday's protest was seen as the 44-year-old flexing his muscles, suggesting that while MI5's Operation Arbacia has devastated the New IRA in Tyrone and Armagh, it has had little impact on the gang's Derry leadership.
A dissident source said: "This was him sending a message to the cops saying, 'I'm still here. What are you going to do about it?'"
Meanwhile, police in Glasgow were called to a Saoradh demonstration in the city on Friday night in support of the arrested dissidents and Edinburgh-based Palestinian doctor Issam Bassalat, who is charged with committing a preparatory act of terrorism.
The 62-year-old was arrested in Heathrow Airport last month as part of the Operation Arbacia investigation.