On a sunny and cool September Saturday in 2011, hundreds of activists and protestors took to Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Financial District. They set up tents, mutual aid stations, and more, occupying the space to protest inequality and corporate corruption. Occupy Wall Street brought the terms “the 99%” and “the 1%” into the mainstream American consciousness. When police raided Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night that November, the movement’s flagship occupation came to an end. But what it sparked lives on today.

Many of the activists and organizers at the forefront of today’s debt cancellation and forgiveness movement got their start at Occupy, either in that first New York demonstration or subsequent actions across the country. Natalia Abrams, who started Occupy Colleges, went on to found the Student Debt Crisis CenterAndrew Ross, an activist and social and cultural analysis professor at New York University, and Hannah Appel, an economic anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, went on to start Strike Debt, a nationwide debt resistance movement. From Strike Debt, the Debt Collective—a debtors union primarily focused on student debt, carceral debt, and tenant debt—was born. A decade later, their efforts saw a small but significant victory when the White House announced federal student loan forgiveness in August.

In the years following Occupy, Strike Debt and the Debt Collective’s efforts included producing The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual and launching a Rolling Jubilee that has bought $32 million of debt from secondary markets and canceled it. “It’s a drop in the ocean, obviously,” Ross says. In the U.S., 45 million current and former students hold $1.6 trillion in federal student debt, which accounts for 92% of all U.S. student debt. “But it was a proof of concept that people could actually take relief for themselves through mutual aid.”

Read the full article about student debt by Cinnamon Janzer at YES! Magazine.