Activists arrested in Capitol Hill protest urging Biden to cancel student debt and divest from military spending

The Debt Collective’s protest underscores the urgent need for student debt relief and a reevaluation of U.S. military spending.

Image Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

More than a dozen members of the Debt Collective were arrested on Capitol Hill Wednesday during a protest demanding that President Joe Biden prioritize student debt relief over military funding. The activists marched from the U.S. Department of Education to the Capitol, displaying banners with messages like “You Are Not a Loan” and “1,700,000,000,000,” referencing the total U.S. educational debt.

The U.S. student debt crisis affects 43 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.75 trillion. Despite some measures for debt relief, many argue that the efforts have been insufficient. Meanwhile, the U.S. defense budget exceeds $880 billion annually, with significant funds allocated for military aid, including to Israel.

The protest began at the U.S. Department of Education and proceeded to the Capitol, where activists unfurled large banners and held a rally. Democratic Congresswomen Cori Bush of Missouri and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan addressed the crowd, highlighting the stark contrast between military spending and the need for educational and social funding.

“As we stand here today, there are 43 million people whose collective debt burden stands at a staggering $1.75 trillion dollars. Shame,” said Bush. “At the same time, our defense budget is over $880 billion per year, which could pay for our student debt crisis in two years.”

Rashida Tlaib criticized the allocation of funds for military purposes while domestic needs remain unmet. “Why is it that our president… moves with urgency to use every single tool at his disposal to bypass Congress to send more weapons to that genocidal maniac Netanyahu, and why can’t we do that same thing for the 40 million Americans still waiting for help with their student loans?”

The Debt Collective’s primary demand is for President Biden to use his executive powers to cancel all student debt. The group argues that this action would not cost the federal government but would significantly benefit the economy and society. They contrast this with the rapid authorization of billions of dollars in military aid, particularly to Israel.

Debt Collective stated, “President Biden has used his authority to send billions of dollars of weapons to Israel. Israel’s military offensive has cost at least 34,000 lives in less than a year. And yet, when it comes to relieving 45 million Americans of crushing student debt… Biden has held back.”

Canceling student debt could provide a substantial economic boost, enabling millions to invest in homes, businesses, and education. Reallocating military funds to education and social programs could address critical issues such as homelessness, healthcare, and climate change.

The political context of this protest is significant, as Biden is running for reelection against former President Donald Trump. Trump has indicated he would roll back Biden’s limited student debt relief actions if elected.

The Biden administration has yet to respond directly to the protest. Political figures have expressed varying opinions, with some supporting the call for debt relief and others defending military spending.

Public and media reactions to the Debt Collective’s demands have been mixed, with some highlighting the need for urgent student debt relief and others questioning the feasibility of reallocating defense funds.

Historically, protests and movements have played a crucial role in advocating for debt relief. Internationally, several countries have implemented successful student debt cancellation programs, providing a potential model for the U.S.

The Debt Collective’s protest underscores the urgent need for student debt relief and a reevaluation of U.S. military spending. As activists continue to advocate for these changes, the contrast between funding education and financing military actions remains a critical issue.

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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.