A New Jersey mayor has rescinded a $2,500 police overtime bill given to a teen who organized a Black Lives Matter rally in her town.
NJ Advance Media reported Friday Emily Gil, 18, of Englewood Cliffs received a letter earlier this month from Mayor Mario M. Kranjac looking for payment of $2,499.26 “for the police overtime caused by your protest.”
The town’s letter said she had not met with officials before her protest, requiring them to hastily come up with security plans.
"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. I always want to make certain that everyone's Constitutional Rights are fully respected," Kranjac wrote in a follow-up letter to Gil Saturday morning and shared with NBC New York.
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"I was glad that you were able to express your rights to freedom of speech and assembly," he added.
Gil, a recent high school graduate, had organized a protest on July 25 in the town, just across the river from the uppermost parts of Manhattan. She said she called for action like increasing affordable housing in the town, and chastised Engelwood Cliffs for not implementing it over the years.
Gil said she didn’t meet with town officials in person over coronavirus concerns, but made an offer to meet via Zoom, which wasn’t accepted, and then officials stopped responding to her.
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Kranjac told NJ Advance Media that protesters’ rights of free speech and assembly were respected, and that Gil was wrong 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,” he said.
Four Democratic members of the town’s Council issued a statement opposing the Republican mayor’s decision, and said they would seek to cancel the bill. They said he owed the teen an apology.
Jeanne LoCicero, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, told The Associated Press, “the idea of sending a bill to protesters is shocking.”
She said while it’s been attempted before, she hadn’t heard of any other town trying something similar over the protests of recent months.
"After causing a national outcry against his tyrannical, blatantly unconstitutional and deeply immoral behavior, Mayor Mario Kranjac is now apparently backing off his demand for a local teenage activist to pay thousands of dollars for organizing a small, peaceful protest against racism," a statement from Englewood Cliffs Democrats read Saturday.