About 300 Ulster Defence Association supporters gathered in the Oldpark area of north Belfast following tensions between rival loyalist factions.
Riot police blocked the entrance to Westland Road
On Wednesday, police stopped them entering the Westland Road area, where a rival breakaway faction of the organisation has been based.
Tensions are high following a weekend stand-off between the two factions.
A Sinn Fein spokeswoman said nationalist residents felt intimidated and some had left their homes in fear.
On Thursday, the area police commander, Chief Superintendent Gary White, appealed for calm and urged those with influence in the area to use it accordingly.
Frankie Gallagher from the Ulster Political Research Group, which speaks for the UDA, said they wanted to stage a peaceful protest after claims that a number of houses were attacked in the Ballysillan area earlier in the evening.
Crowds gathered in the Oldpark area
"We are walking on the Westland and we are telling those drug dealers, those criminals, those people who have attacked and are destroying our communities to leave, get out, stop attacking our community and leave our community alone."
The crowd dispersed at about 0100 BST on Thursday.
Sinn Fein's Margaret McClenaghan said a number of nationalist residents had left the immediate area in fear.
BBC NI Home Affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney said: "Several hundred UDA members had marched down from Ballysillan to the Oldpark area and were stopped at the top of Westland Road by a row of police officers prepared with riot shields and with several rows of landrovers behind them.
"We had a bizarre situation where several UDA men stood just 100 yards or so away from the police officers, while a group of nationalists stood 100 yards to their right simply watching, including the local Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan. The atmosphere there was very tense."
The loyalist protests follow the expulsion of leading north Belfast loyalists Ihab and Andre Shoukri from the UDA last month.
Earlier this week, members of the UDA's so-called ruling council held talks with representatives of the breakaway faction.
It followed a weekend stand-off between the rival factions and a public show of strength by the UDA leadership.