East End students ‘kettled’ in yesterday’s fees protest at Westminster

STUDENTS from East London were left reeling after yesterday’s tuition fee protest with at least one student kettled on Westminster Bridge for several hours.

A group of 40 students from the Mile End campus of Queen Mary, University of London, travelled to central London to join the thousands of protestors outside Parliament as inside MPs voted for tuition fees of up to �9,000 a year.

Alex Chan, an organiser of Stop the Cuts group at Queen Mary said: “Everyone is okay but a bit shaken up.”

She said the students were held in a police kettle near Whitehall and one student from the group had gone missing after a charge by police horses.

Another student had been held on Westminster Bridge for several hours after police detained protestors there after the demonstration turned ugly.

Ms Chan said: “It was unbelievable with riot police standing round.”

But she said students were determined to continue making their voices heard about their concerns about tuition fees and cuts to education.

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Bethnal Green MP Rushanara Ali spoke in the debate before the government narrowly won the vote to impose fees.

The Labour MP said: “Despite this talk of supporting people on low incomes, I find it quite hard to stomach what I am hearing, because in my constituency, for example, the vast majority of young people come from low-income backgrounds, yet they will be losing support through the education maintenance allowance, from which 88 per cent of Bangladeshi children across England benefit. That one ethnic minority group, along with white working-class children, will be prevented from going on to higher education. Coupled with that are the cuts in the future jobs fund-�1 billion, and we are still waiting to hear-so please think again.”

Speaking after the vote Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick who also voted against it said there had been some concessions including raising the bar for when students would have to start paying back their student loan from a �15,000 salary to �21,000.

He said: “I think the campaign run by the students and academics had an impact on the cuts.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “There’s a slight issue of what’s going to happen to the EMA (Education maintenance allowance) which have not been published.”

He said he was also concerned about cuts to ESOL funding and school sports.

But he urged would-be students not to let potential fees deter them from pursuing their dreams of higher education.

He said he has had a lot of correspondence from constituents about the issue.

“I would encourage people to express their views by marching, sending petitions and writing to people. “

He added, commenting on the ugly scenes at yesterday’s protest: “They have to recognise that (some) people who are not as self controlled as them create mischief. It’s easy to get caught up with things not of their making.”