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A New Jersey teenager has been hit with a large bill for police overtime costs after her “lack of notification” to the city about her Black Lives Matter protest.
The 18-year-old reportedly did not give proper advance notice to city officials in Englewood Cliffs about the planned protest at the end of July and caused extra work for police who had to provide security for the event, according to NJ.com. Four days after the demonstration, Emily Gil received a bill for nearly $2,500 to cover the costs police apparently incurred.
(Source: WABC TV)
“I was shocked when I read the letter. I felt a little disrespected because the tone of the letter was alittle condescending,” Gil told WABC-TV.
While Englewood Cliffs Mayor Mario Kranjac said the bill is standard procedure for planned events, Gil believes she was being targeted because her rally was focused on the racial aspect of the lack of affordable housing options as black residents are allegedly priced out of living in Bergen County.
“Englewood Cliffs has dodged affordable housing requirements for 40-plus years,” she told NJ Advance Media. “I find that unacceptable.”
Gil, who graduated in June from Bergen County Technical School, organized the Black Lives Matter protest to be held on July 25 and said only 30 to 40 people participated. There were no disturbances in the peaceful gathering and demonstrators reportedly cleaned up after themselves.
Days letter, Gil received a bill and letter from the Republican mayor.
“Please promptly forward your payment to the borough in the amount of $2,499.26 for the police overtime caused by your protest,” Kranjac wrote, explaining that Gil had not met with officials ahead of the protest.
“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 read.
Gil insisted that she had offered to meet with borough officials over a video call because she did not want to attend an in-person meeting due to coronavirus concerns but her request was not accepted.
“They kept pushing (an in-person meeting) and then they stopped responding to me,” Gil, who emailed the mayor this week “about the legitimacy of the bill,” said.
Englewood Cliffs Police Chief William Henkelman responded to a letter from Gil complaining about the bill, saying that “extensive preparation required and the additional staffing that was needed, including overtime expenses.”
“Ms. Gil is misinformed when she links our affordable housing issues with her protest, and she is wrong when she writes that I voted against affordable housing,” the mayor told NJ Advance Media on Friday
“Everyone is welcome in Englewood Cliffs,” he said, adding that the protesters’ “First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble were fully honored by the borough.”
“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.
But Gil contends that she has “reason to believe that it was because of my pro-affordable housing stance that Mr. Kranjac handled the situation this way.”
“Englewood Cliffs is trying to intimidate and silence people who are standing up for Black Lives Matter and the implementation of affordable housing,” she told the outlet.
The ACLU of New Jersey slammed the bill as an illegal penalty for exercising free-speech rights, tweeting “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,” the group wrote.
Bergen County Democratic legislators slammed Kranjac, who was elected in 2015, for the bill.
“Students like Emily Gil should be celebrated and not be threatened with a bill for $2500 by her own local community for speaking out against racism and bigotry,” New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle stated.
Democratic members of Englewood Cliffs City Council also attacked Kranjac, the town’s first Republican mayor in 40 years, in a statement, according to Insider NJ:
“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.”
The mayor has repeatedly maintained that the bill is standard protocol and he had no issue with the protest, noting that he is the first in decades to combat the housing issue.
“And we made sure that we fulfilled and satisfied our obligation to make sure that they can exercise their freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble,” he told CBS New York.
“We always bill… the bicycle race or running race or any other event, where our police are used, including utility work,” he added, “people pay for the overtime.”
Englewood Cliffs Mayor Mario Kranjac has rescinded the bill and informed Gil in a letter of his decision, according to WABC-TV.
“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,” Kranjac said. “I always want to make certain that everyone’s Constitutional Rights are fully respected. We will adjust the Borough’s ordinances accordingly.”
Democratic Council members blasted the mayor in a statement on Saturday for “causing a national outcry against his tyrannical, blatantly unconstitutional and deeply immoral behavior.”
“It’s sad that rather than take responsibility Mayor Kranjac is now trying to pass the buck, once again showing his characteristic lack of leadership and thin skin,” council members wrote, adding that Kranjac has not apologized to them and they “are still exploring ways to hold the Mayor accountable.”
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