Masked men gather in loyalist ‘show of strength’ in east Belfast

ireland
Masked Men Gather In Loyalist ‘Show Of Strength’ In East Belfast Masked Men Gather In Loyalist ‘Show Of Strength’ In East Belfast
A small number of police officers are seen in the video. File photo: PA
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By Rebecca Black, PA

Police have been challenged to “answer questions” after a gathering of masked men in east Belfast described as a loyalist “show of strength”.

Scores of men wearing face coverings and hoods or hats to conceal their identity were seen in the Pitt Park area of east Belfast in a video circulated on social media.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said the incident in Pitt Park represented a “severe escalation” of local tensions in recent weeks.

A small number of police officers are seen in the video.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has questioned why police “merely shepherded” the men.

“The PSNI attended the scene while the UVF mob were still roaming the community and made minimal efforts to intervene,” he said.

“It has been reported that the mob were preparing to attack a home and instead of challenging those involved the PSNI merely shepherded the gang out of the area.”

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There are also reports of families being evicted from their homes and threats made to a community centre.

“Meaningful intervention and action from PSNI in the early stages of this UVF ‘show of strength’ could have prevented this escalation of events,” Mr Kelly said.

“The PSNI has serious questions to answer over its inadequate response to the initial incident in the Pitt Park area.

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“Criminal gangs have no place in our society and I will call for urgent action to be taken by the PSNI in the upcoming Policing Board meeting to end the scourge of paramilitaries in communities.”

A PSNI spokesman confirmed officers responded to reports of “suspicious masked men” in the vicinity of the Newtownards Road on Tuesday afternoon.

A spokesman said officers attended the incident and inquiries are continuing.

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