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Occupy Protesters Turn Focus To Mounting U.S. Student Debt

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Occupy Wall Street protestors gathered in Union Square in Manhattan on Wednesday to mark the day they say the U.S. student debt reached $1 trillion dollars and to draw attention to what they called the financial sector's "predatory" student loan market.

The Federal Reserve disputes the figure, saying U.S. student debt is currently $870 billion.

President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney have called attention to the issue on the campaign trail to try to court the college-age vote.

U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed separate bills to keep interest rates for poor and middle class students at the current level for another year.

Currently, interest rates for students are set to double on July 1.

Republicans want to pay for the measure by using money from a public health and prevention fund created by the president's health care reform law.

The Democratic bill would be paid for in part by increasing corporate tax rates, a move opposed by the GOP.

Some protesters in Union Square on Wednesday wore signs that said how much money they owed in student loans. Others performed skits to illustrate the problem, and portrayed the banks lending the loans to students as rich people sipping champagne.

"The student debt in this country is astronomical, and I don't think people should get in debt trying to get an education. I don't think that's very fair," said a protester. "The people are going to be productive citizens, they're going to help our economy."

Some protesters demanded that all student debt should be forgiven, but some students found that goal unrealistic.

"I think it's a little pie in the sky," said one New School student. "There's a lot of scholarship opportunities as well. People should just do their homework to see where the money is."

While there was a strong police presence at Union Square, there was no conflict between the officers and protesters.

Demonstrators then moved a few blocks south to Cooper Union, a school that announced Tuesday that it would start charging tuition for some graduate student programs.

AIDS Demonstration Leads To 19 Arrests In Lower Manhattan

Meanwhile, 19 AIDS activists and Occupy Wall street protestors were arrested during rallies and a march in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday.

Some demonstrators were arrested at a protest near City Hall after placing furniture across Broadway.

They were protesting what they say is a lack of housing assistance for people with HIV.

Others demonstrators were arrested after chaining themselves together and blocking traffic near the New York Stock Exchange.

Activists were calling for a tax on Wall Street transactions to be used for universal health care and medical and social services for people with HIV and AIDS.

Protesters were marking the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP).

The group was founded in 1987 when advocates marched on Wall Street to protest the high cost and low availability of HIV medications.

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