New York- Hedy Epstein, 90, and eight others were arrested for “failing to disperse” during protests taking place in downtown St. Louis on Monday.
They were arrested for “failure to disperse” when they marched on, and held a small rally in front of a building where the office of Gov. Jay Nixon and many of his staff are located.
The protesters had demanded to speak to the governor or his representative about the conflict in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, by a police officer, and the governor’s decision to call in the National Guard to deal with the subsequent protests and looting.
Police and security would not let them in the building. When the nine protesters refused to leave, they were arrested, taken to the police station, booked, and then released.
“We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90,” Epstein said when she was arrested.
She was ordered to appear in court on October 21, she told The Jerusalem Post.
“This is how I’m entering my 10th decade of life!” Epstein, who turned 90 last week, joked.
The German-born Epstein is known for her fervent activism and speaking out about national and international events.
She lives in Missouri and in 2001 started the St. Louis chapter of Women in Black, an antiwar movement organization that was founded in Jerusalem in 1988, during the second intifada, but has spread to other countries and to causes other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Epstein has been a vocal advocate for the Free Gaza Movement.
According to her website, she has participated in several demonstrations “in opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, the 25-foot-high cement wall, and the demolition of Palestinian homes and olive orchards.” Epstein joined the failed Gaza Freedom March in 2010, trying to take a bus from Cairo to the Gaza Strip.
Epstein has won various accolades for her activism over the past decade, notably the 2005 Imagine Life Education through Media Award and the 2008 American Friends Service Committee’s Inspiration for Hope Award.
Born in born in Freiburg, in southwestern Germany, and raised in nearby Kippenheim, Epstein was eight years old when Adolf Hitler was sworn in as chancellor. In 1939, she was sent to England as part of the Kindertransport, which eventually moved 10,000 mostly Jewish children to safety. Her parents both died in concentration camps. After the war, she went back to Germany to work for the American government, including for the Nuremberg Doctors Trial, and finally immigrated to America in 1948.
Epstein told the Post that her parents were anti-Zionists, although she never had a chance to ask why they did not support a Jewish state.
“As young child, I didn’t really understand what that [anti-Zionism] is, and my parents were looking to go anywhere they could, but weren’t willing to go to Palestine,” Epstein said. “They did not wish to live in a country that was run by Jews and for Jews only.”
After arriving in the US in May 1948, the same month Israel was founded, she noted, Epstein said she remained fairly insulated from Israeli issues until 1982, when she heard about the massacres in the Sabra neighborhood and the adjacent Shatilla refugee camp in Beirut. She went to the West Bank for the first time in 2003, for several months, and said that she was stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport in January 2004 when she was trying to leave the country.
“I was accused of being a security threat and a terrorist,” Epstein recounted. “And I was stripped searched and internally searched.”