The battered blue line 破旧的蓝色警戒线
New police powers will only go so far in dealing with rioters 对付暴动者，警方新的权力也只能做这么多
AS HUNDREDS of thousands of people marched peacefully through central London in a rally against the government’s spending cuts on March 26th, a hundred or so vandals, thought to be extreme anarchists and anti-capitalists, rampaged nearby. Banks and upmarket retailers near The Economist’s offices still bear the scars of the mayhem. Not for the first time, the Metropolitan Police stands accused of mishandling the unrest.
Even when attacked with missiles—including, reportedly, ammonia-filled lightbulbs—officers were restrained. They stood off as shop fronts were trashed and small fires were lit. (Fewer than ten people have been charged for crimes relating to violence, though many more for the aggravated trespass of Fortnum & Mason, a department store in which demonstrators staged a mostly peaceful sit-in.) There seemed little excuse for being caught out by the trouble: it had been planned online; there was violence at a protest against higher university-tuition fees three months earlier.
就算是遭到投掷物的袭击——据说包括充满氨气的电灯泡——警察们都十分控制，没有采取回击。商店门面被砸碎，有小火点燃，他们都不上前阻止。（少于10人因暴力而遭到指控，但有更多的人在百货大楼Fortnum & Mason的静坐抗议活动后被逮捕，静坐大部分时间是和平的，但后来情况有所恶化。）警方不应有任何借口对此次冲突毫无防备：这次游行是通过网络计划的；而且3个月前抗议大学提高学费时也有暴力发生。
Yet the police could be forgiven for feeling exasperated by this criticism. After all, their handling of some previous demonstrations in London was condemned as too harsh. The tactic of “kettling” protesters—detaining them for extended periods within cordons of officers—has attracted controversy. The case of Ian Tomlinson, who was pushed to the ground by a police officer during a protest in 2009 and later died, is the subject of an ongoing inquiry.
It might be impossible to strike a Goldilocks-style balance—neither too tolerant nor too tough—that would please everybody. But there is a palpable need for consistent rules of engagement. There are likely to be more big marches in the coming years, as the government’s cuts bite. Even Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton on April 29th is purportedly being targeted by unruly demonstrators.
On March 28th Theresa May, the home secretary, said that she would consider giving the police more powers for future protests. Preventive measures that helped to ease Britain’s once-endemic problem of football hooliganism could be adopted. For example, rogue elements could be banned from attending marches (though this would be harder to enforce than a ban on a hooligan entering a stadium). Mrs May hinted that the police should use existing powers to force protesters to remove the balaclavas and face-coverings often worn by rioters. Many would like her to go further. Andy Hayman, a former assistant commissioner of the Met, suggests dawn raids on known troublemakers’ homes.
3月28日，内政大臣Theresa May说她想给警察更多的权力来应对未来的抗议活动。政府可以采用曾经用来减缓英国一时成灾的足球流氓问题的防御措施。例如可以人们禁止参加游行时使用危险器械（虽然这比禁止流氓进入场馆要难实施得多）。May女士暗示到警察应运用现有的权力来强迫抗议者摘下那些劫贩经常带的巴拉克拉瓦帽以及面罩。很多人希望她能更进一步将想法付诸实践。前警察局局长助理Andy Hayman建议对那些已证实的闹事者进行黎明突袭。
New rules and powers, however, will only help to deal with the most hardened and violent rioters. A larger, trickier group are clever enough to cause trouble while staying within whatever laws prevail at the time. Disruption and intimidation that stops short of actual violence are becoming their speciality.
In any case, the allegedly lax line taken by the police towards the violence probably has less to do with their powers than with fears of being accused of brutality. Britain has lived through angry political epochs before: there were riots against the “poll tax” in 1990, for example. But in those days a police officer’s every action was not filmed on protesters’ mobile-phone cameras. The technology enables scrutiny. It also risks shaping a policing strategy that errs on the side of passivity.