A Black Lives Matter organizer recently learned that protesting can be costly, unless politics comes to the rescue.
Emily Gil contends that Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, lacks affordable housing and that black residents are priced out of homeownership. To call attention to that, the 18-year-old organized a protest rally on July 25.
Then came a note in the mail from Englewood Cliffs Mayor Mario M. Kranjac along with a bill for $2,499.26 in police overtime costs related to the protest, according to NJ.com. The letter said Gil never properly communicated with officials.
“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 stated.
Gil’s side of the story is the borough officials wanted an in-person meeting, but she would only deal with them on Zoom, due to the coronavirus. They refused, and then ignored her, she claims.
“They kept pushing [an in-person meeting] and then they stopped responding to me,” she told NJ.com.
Gil thought that $2,500 is out of line for a rally that she said drew 30 to 40 demonstrators, was peaceful, and was cleaned up by participants when the event was over, according to NJ.com. She objected to Englewood Cliffs Police Chief William Henkelman.
Henkelman responded, citing “extensive preparation required and the additional staffing that was needed, including overtime expenses,” the news outlet reported.
The mayor said that the community is blameless.
“First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble were fully honored by the borough,” he said, according to NJ.com, but there remained a security cost to be dealt with.
“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, according to the news outlet.
“Once again, Mayor Kranjac has embarrassed our proud community with his offensive behavior and this time he has attempted to bully and silence a young woman who simply dared to exercise her first amendment rights. Mayor Kranjac should be ashamed of himself, and as members of the Borough Council we will be acting to invalidate this ridiculous bill and make it clear to Emily Gil and her family that they will not be expected to pay anything. Mayor Kranjac owes Emily and every other resident of our community an apology for his divisive actions,” Democratic council members Gloria Oh, Ed Aversa, Deborah Tsabari and Jimmy Song stated in the release.
The ACLU of New Jersey also weighed in, criticizing the borough’s move.
Not smart, Englewood Cliffs.
People have the right to speak freely.
Towns can’t charge protesters for police or insurance for exercising their constitutional rights.https://t.co/Ha8yfvTZDF
— ACLU of New Jersey (@ACLUNJ) August 28, 2020
Kranjac has now thrown in the towel, according to CNBC.
On Saturday, he wrote Gil that the bill was being set aside.
“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.
“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 wrote. “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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