Rev. Karla Frye, Elder at St. Peter AME, Facing Felony Charge After Galleria Arrest


The Rev. Dr. Karla Frye, center, photographed at a program sponsored by Artworks. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/LYNN DELEARIE
  • The Rev. Dr. Karla Frye, center, photographed at a program sponsored by Artworks.

An ordained minister who also works as the chief operating officer of the nonprofit Community Women Against Hardship is one of the 22 people arrested yesterday at the St. Louis Galleria — and of the few facing felony charges.

The Rev. Karla Frye, who is on staff as an "itinerant elder" at St. Peter AME Church in St. Louis, is being held on a $10,000 bond and faces one felony charge of assault on a law enforcement officer, along with one count of misdemeanor rioting and two counts of misdemeanor resisting arrest, activists say.

Even as protesters are finally being released from the Justice Center in Clayton, she remains in custody. Prosecutors are seeking a $10,000 bond for her release — which would mean $1,000 in cash. Activists say her lawyers are seeking an emergency hearing with a judge in order to post bond and get her released today.

Friends who reached out to the RFT say that Frye, 56, has health conditions and they are concerned for her after being in jail overnight.

A former journalist and teacher, Frye was captured in a series of photos by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Christian Gooden yesterday. The sequence shows her jumping on an officer and then being choked by him, apparently while objecting to rough treatment given to her thirteen-year-old grandson.

The photos were widely disseminated — first by activists, who noted the choking action with horror, and then by police supporters, who pointed to the earlier photo showing Frye making contact with the officer.

The St. Louis County Police Department even retweeted Gooden's image from its official account in response to activist Kayla Reed, who'd called those questioning Frye "liars."

Because the Galleria is in Richmond Heights, unlike those arrested throughout the last week in protests downtown and in the Central West End, Frye's case will be handled not by the St. Louis City Counselor or the city Circuit Attorney — but by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.

McCulloch, of course, is famously pro-law enforcement, the same top prosecutor who led a grand jury to a no-bill in the case of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot an unarmed black teen in Ferguson. Unlike city officials, it's hard to imagine him being swayed by activism, or sympathetic to protesters.

Protesters today had planned to gather at a park in Ferguson, but after St. Louis County failed to release many of the 22 who were arrested yesterday, many ended up going to the Justice Center in Clayton instead. Organizers led chants outside the courthouse as their comrades were released throughout the afternoon.

Update: Supporters tweeted that Frye was released from the Justice Center around 3:15 p.m. — more than 24 hours after her arrest.

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