Just days after her 90th birthday, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein was arrested Monday in St. Louis when she was part of a protest outside Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s office. Epstein was born in Germany and left in 1939 on a Kindertransport to England. Her parents died in Auschwitz. Epstein is a co-founder of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and St. Louis branch of Jewish Voice for Peace. In 2011, she was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was a passenger on the U.S.-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope. Over the years, she has made many solidarity trips to the West Bank. Epstein criticizes the police handling of protests in Ferguson. “It’s the same kind of violence that I’ve observed when I was in the Israeli-occupied Palestine,” Epstein says. “I know what it feels like to be discriminated against, to be oppressed, and I can’t stand idly by when I see there are problems.”
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AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with Hedy Epstein. She is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who was arrested on Monday in St. Louis when she was part of a protest outside of Governor Jay Nixon’s office. Hedy Epstein is co-founder of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and St. Louis branch of Jewish Voice for Peace. In 2011, she was part of the Gaza freedom flotilla and was a passenger on the U.S.-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope. Over the years, she has made many solidarity trips to the West Bank. She joins us here now in Ferguson.
Hedy Epstein, welcome back to Democracy Now!
HEDY EPSTEIN: Good morning, Amy, and thank you for having me on your program.
AMY GOODMAN: We speak to you as tear gas has been in the streets of Ferguson and the Israeli assault on Gaza has just resumed. Your feelings today? And talk about why you got arrested on Monday.
HEDY EPSTEIN: On Monday, several of us gathered downtown, and then we marched to the Wainwright Building, where the office of Governor Nixon is. And we wanted to speak to him and ask him to de-escalate the violence that’s going on in Ferguson. And there were police and security people in front of the building, and they would not let us in. There is a large plaza in front of the building, and so we congregated there. There were some people speaking about their experiences. And at one point, a police lieutenant informed us that the governor is not there—I just learned that he was at the fair—and that his staff is not there, and asked us to disperse. And when we didn’t disperse, within seconds almost, the police arrested those of us who refused to disperse. There were nine of us. I was one of them. We were handcuffed, taken to the paddy wagon and to the nearest police substation.
AMY GOODMAN: What concerns you most about what’s happening here?
HEDY EPSTEIN: The ongoing violence and the ongoing oppression that has been taking place in Ferguson of the African-American community. And that has to end. The whole structure of oppression there has to end. And right now, that’s the long-range problem. But at present now, the violence has to de-escalate. Instead of it, it’s being escalated. And the police chief of Ferguson has been trained in Israel how to mishandle, I’m sorry to have to say—
AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying Police Chief Jackson?
HEDY EPSTEIN: Right, how to mishandle a large group of people. And this is what he’s doing. And it’s the same kind of violence that I’ve observed when I was in the Israeli-occupied Palestine. It’s just abominable, what’s happening.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?
HEDY EPSTEIN: I was born in Germany, and I left in May 1939 on a Kindertransport, or Children’s Transport, to England. I came to this country in May 1948.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what fuels you, keeps you going? By the way, happy birthday. You just celebrated your 90th birthday.
HEDY EPSTEIN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a black T-shirt with white letters that say, “STAYHUMAN.” What fuels you in your activism, from Gaza and the West Bank to Ferguson, Missouri?
HEDY EPSTEIN: I know what it feels like to be discriminated against, to be oppressed, and I can’t stand idly by when I see there are problems. I can’t solve every problem, I probably can’t solve any problem, but I have to do whatever it is possible for me to do. I just cannot stand idly by, because if I did—and anyone that stand idly by becomes complicit in what is going on.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have a message, as you stand here in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?
HEDY EPSTEIN: Stop the violence. Go to the table and honestly discuss what might happen, that it’s—if peace ever can be there in that area. That violence there has to end. I mean, it’s terrible, what’s been going on there. Not just now, but it’s been an ongoing thing. But Netanyahu has no intention, really. He talks about peace, but he doesn’t really want peace.
AMY GOODMAN: And a message for your own president here, President Obama, who’s been dealing both with Ferguson, Missouri, and what’s happened in Israel and Palestine?
HEDY EPSTEIN: I know he’s on vacation right now, but come here to Ferguson. Show your face. Talk to the people here. Talk to the young people here. They need you.
AMY GOODMAN: Hedy Epstein, I want to say thank you so much for being with us, our last guest today here in Ferguson, Missouri, as we broadcast each day the voices of people in the streets, and we’ll continue to do so…
–Democracy Now!, August 20, 2014