POLICE last night gave a warning to right-wing protesters who may be planning violence as part of a demonstration in Bolton.

The controversial English Defence League will stage a protest in Victoria Square in March at which more than 3,000 people are expected.

Leader Tommy Robinson said the EDL would work with police but could not rule out a repeat of violence and flare ups witnessed at previous protests.

Supt Chris Hankinson, of Bolton Police, has warned however, that troublemakers will feel the full force of the law.

He said: “We are committed to facilitating peaceful demonstrations while protecting the local community and we are mindful that given the nature of the protest, some people may feel vulnerable.

“Any criminal or public order offences will be dealt with robustly.

“We would also warn anyone who would want to exploit this demonstration by behaving in a criminal or anti-social manner that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

The EDL will hold the rally on March 6.

Mr Robinson said: “We have got a core of support in Bolton and a strong membership. People have been saying they want an EDL protest there.

“We had more than 3,000 people at a recent march in Stoke and I think there will be even more in Bolton.”

Mr Robinson said it would be a static protest rather than an organised march, though police will have to escort hundreds of participants from the train station to Victoria Square.

He added: “We will have 150 trained marshals helping police. We respect the police and don’t want to make life difficult for them.

“We want to lay tarpaulin in the square so our members can sit.

“However I cannot rule out violence. At previous events, we have had far-right groups like Combat 18 turning up. It’s naive to guarantee no violence.”

The EDL formed last spring to give a voice to people opposed to extremist Islam in the UK.

But critics claim it is a front for the BNP and football hooligan groups.

They point to photographic evidence of people burning an anti-Nazi flag and making Nazi salutes on past EDL marches.