ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. -- The mayor of a northern New Jersey town says a bill for police overtime reportedly totaling $2,500 that was sent to a teenager who organized a Black Lives Matter rally last month has been rescinded.
Mayor Mario Kranjac of Englewood Cliffs confirmed the action to the Associated Press on Saturday without additional comment.
NJ Advance Media had reported Friday that Emily Gil, 18, received a letter earlier this month from the mayor seeking payment of $2,499.26 “for the police overtime caused by your protest.”
A civil liberties advocate called the move “shocking.”
WLNY-TV reported that Kranjac said in another letter that he rescinded the bill after reviewing the local ordinance he had cited earlier.
“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 said, the station reported.
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.
The town’s letter said she had not met with officials before her protest, requiring them to hastily come up with security plans.
Gil said she didn’t meet with them in person over coronavirus concerns, but made an offer to meet via Zoom, which wasn’t accepted, and then officials stopped responding to her. She said she had reached out to the mayor after receiving the bill but had received no response.
Kranjac earlier 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 said in a statement that they would seek to cancel the bill and called on the Republican mayor to apologize to the teenager.
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.