New Jersey town tried to bill teenage BLM protest organizer $2,500 for police overtime

A recent high school graduate who organized a Black Lives Matter rally in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey said she was billed $2,500 by town officials for police overtime, stirring up anger from civil liberty advocates and prompting the town’s mayor to rescind the bill. 

Emily Gil, the 18-year-old who organized the event in July, was directed by Mayor Mario Kranjac to pay $2,499.26 “for the police overtime caused by your protest,” according to a letter reported by NJ Advance Media. Gil’s protest called on the town to increase access to affordable housing. 

The letter stated that Gil refused to meet with officials before her event, which left them scrambling to prepare security plans. 

“Your lack of notification left the borough with little time to prepare for your protest so that the police department and department of public works could ensure that everyone would be safe,” the letter said. 

However, Gil said that she declined requests to meet with officials in person due to concerns about the coronavirus and that officials never accepted her offer to meet remotely on Zoom. Gil told NJ Advance Media that only 30 to 40 people attended the rally and caused no disruption. 

“Englewood Cliffs is trying to intimidate and silence people who are standing up for Black Lives Matter and the implementation of affordable housing,” Gil told the news outlet. Kranjac said that Gil was incorrect to link affordable housing to her protest.

“As with any privately-sponsored event that takes place in the borough requiring police safety, an invoice was sent to the organizer for police overtime since it would be unfair to require our residents to financially support a private event,” Kranjac said.

Four Democratic members of the town’s Council issued a statement on Friday condemning the Republican mayor’s bill and argued that he tried to “bully and silence a young woman who simply dared to exercise her first amendment rights.” 

The mayor on Saturday in a letter to Gil said he rescinded the bill for police overtime and explained that the bill was based on the advice of the borough administrator. He also said would continue to work on the town’s affordable housing options. 

“I was told that all private events requiring police overtime should be paid for by the organizers. It was never intended as a fine, but rather as a fee,” Kranjac wrote in a letter. 

“I have researched the issue further with my own counsel and I am hereby rescinding the bill, subject to our Council’s ratification of my action,” he continued. “I always want to make certain that everyone’s Constitutional Rights are fully respected. We will have to adjust the Borough’s ordinances accordingly.” 

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