UPDATED at 3:25 p.m. with release of Rev. Karla Frye.
CLAYTON • About 200 protesters gathered outside the St. Louis County Justice Center Sunday afternoon as roughly two dozen demonstrators arrested at the St. Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights the day before were released.
Twenty-two people were arrested at the mall Saturday afternoon amid the continuing reaction to the acquittal Sept. 15 of a white police officer in the shooting death of a black drug suspect. Fellow protesters gathered outside the Justice Center in Clayton later Saturday before police announced those arrested would be held overnight and face state charges Sunday.
Seven were booked on state charges. Fifteen others were released and will be referred to the Richmond Heights Municipal Court for local charges, police said.
About 20 had been released by about 2 p.m. Sunday, but that didn’t include the Rev. Karla Frye, seen in photos of her arrest with a police officer’s hand at her neck. Protesters say she was being choked. Other photos show her grabbing an officer from behind as he appears to be trying to arrest someone.
Frye, a member of the clergy at St. Peter AME Church in St. Louis, faces the most serious charge: a felony count of assaulting a law enforcement officer and two misdemeanor counts of interfering or resisting arrest, along with a misdemeanor count of rioting. Charges say she jumped on the back of a police officer as he tried to make an arrest, causing physical injury. St. Louis County police had tweeted that an officer was taken to a hospital with a back injury.
“Defendant resisted her own arrest with physical force,” a charging document filed in court says of Frye. The document says Frye and others “collectively refused police commands to disperse, and reacted to police commands with physical force and violence.”
Six other people were also charged with resisting or interfering with arrest. At least one of them had been arrested a week earlier during a protest in St. Louis that brought controversial arrests. Charges for others arrested Saturday at the Galleria were expected to include rioting, trespassing and/or disorderly conduct.
Bail for Frye, 56, of Bellefontaine Neighbors, was set at $10,000, with 10 percent needed in cash to free her. Protest leaders began soliciting donations from the crowd when that was announced about 2 p.m.
Pastor Spencer Booker of St. Paul African Methodist Church pulled out $100 and asked “Who will come after me? We’re going to bond and set free a civil rights activist.”
The protesters raised the money in short order and an attorney from Arch City Defenders set out to post the bail. Frye was released about 3:15 p.m., but left in a car without speaking to media or the gathered protesters.
It was believed one protester remained in the jail.
Arrests at mall
Police said they made the arrests and cleared the mall building of demonstrators after some in the group refused orders to disperse. Richmond Heights police said they gave three orders to disperse, after which the arrests began. County police were called in to assist.
Police said about 150 other people followed dispersal warnings and “peacefully left.” But several protesters told the Post-Dispatch they had not heard an order to disperse, just whistles and then police moving in to arrest people.
Among those arrested was the 13-year-old grandson of Frye, who was later released to his parents. The boy was bruised during his arrest, family said, but his arm was not broken as had been the rumor among some protesters.
At one point, police prevented some protesters from getting on an escalator to join others already on the second floor. Some trash cans were overturned.
St. Louis County police said that an officer was taken to a hospital with a back injury and that two protesters had minor injuries.
Another tweet from county police said that “no one has the right to destroy the property of others and remain on private property after being asked to leave.”
The mall entrances were closed by police, but a Galleria security spokesman said the mall was open again before 3 p.m.
Richmond Heights police said in a Facebook post that the Galleria’s management had initially allowed the peaceful protest to proceed. But police said management later asked that it be stopped when protesters refused to refrain from blocking shoppers’ access to escalators.
“This was not tolerated by mall management, and they wanted all protesters removed from the mall,” police said.
The judge’s ruling that spurred the protests acquitted Jason Stockley, an ex-St. Louis police officer, in the death in 2011 of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Stockley argued that he shot Smith in self-defense after a suspected drug deal and a high-speed pursuit and crash.
Prosecutors had charged Stockley with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. They alleged that he carried out the premeditated murder of Smith by shooting him five times at close range and then planting a revolver in Smith’s car after police pulled Smith’s body from the vehicle.