Hundreds of students took to the streets on Tuesday, blocking traffic and causing severe disruption over Westminster Bridge
Students gathered in their hundreds to take action against the governments secret axing of ‘maintenance grants’. The bill, which was passed yesterday without any debate or real forewarning, will not only leave millions of students from poorer backgrounds worse off in years to come but also enormously reduce their chances of being able to afford to go to university. The news comes just days after the announcement that nursing bursaries are also due to be cut.
Starting at Parliament Square, the assembly began with speakers including NUS Vice President Shelly Asquith and Labour MP Clive Lewis. “The Tory party haven’t even had the decency to hold a debate” said Lewis. He also explained that he was deeply concerned about “a disturbing pattern of events” that the government have been taking part in “whether it be fracking, students nursing bursaries… they are trying to put things through the back door”. The former NUS Vice President also stressed that the Labour party wanted to bring a message of “hope” to the rally.
Soon after, the march began and hundreds of students vacated Parliament Square and headed for Westminster Bridge. All transport was ground to a halt and police eventually arrived in a desperate bid to clear the road. Whilst students sat fiercely chanting in protest, police officers struggled to move them as numbers grew over the course of about 2 hours, with members of the public joining in too.
NHS staff were also present and had come to show their solidarity with the NUS and the students. There is no doubt that some inspiration was taken from the final ‘die - in’ protest which took place on the night which MP’s voted to extend airstrikes in Syria. Hundreds sat in the middle of the road with banners, megaphones and even pots and pans for instruments to accompany their chants.
When considering that this rally was organised just two days ago, and that many students might be at lectures, the turnout for today was magnificent. It clearly demonstrated not only the passion amongst students that is more prevalent than ever before, but also illustrated the frustration of a generation which are soon likely to be burdened with even more debt.
Although though the Bill was passed yesterday by the Third Delegated Legislation Committee (a committee which consists of 17 MP’s), The Corbyn-led Labour party used today to open up debate on the issue in the house of commons in a final bid to halt the adverse effects it will undoubtedly have on future generations. An online petition to prevent the scrapping of maintenance grants has also reach more that 125,000 signatures and subsequently forced another parliamentary debate on that matter.