An 18-year-old who organized a Black Lives Matter protest in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, last month was billed $2,500 for police overtime — until the invoice was rescinded because it violated her constitutional rights.
In an interview with NJ Advance Media, recent high school graduate Emily Gil said she organized a small protest in July to call on the town to increase access to affordable housing.
"Englewood Cliffs has dodged affordable housing requirements for 40-plus years," Gil told the news outlet. "I find that unacceptable."
The protest was held on July 25, lasting around 90 minutes with about 30 to 40 people in attendance, Gil said.
But just a few days later, the teen received a letter from Mayor Mario Kranjac, ordering her to pay $2,499.26 “for the police overtime caused by your protest," according to NJ Advance Media, who obtained the letter.
"I was shocked when I read that I had to pay to exercise my First Amendment right," Gil said.
According to the letter, Mayor Kranjac claimed that Gil refused to meet with officials before her event, which forced them to make last-minute security plans for the protest.
However, Gil said that she was requested by borough officials to meet them in person, but declined to do so out of concern for the coronavirus. Instead, she offered to chat via Zoom, but they did not accept her suggestion.
"They kept pushing (an in-person meeting) and then they stopped responding to me,” Gil said.
Mayor Kranjac also said in the letter that Gil was incorrect to link affordable housing to the protest. "Englewood Cliffs is trying to intimidate and silence people who are standing up for Black Lives Matter and the implementation of affordable housing," Gil said.
In a statement to Gil obtained by CBS News, Mayor Kranjac said he has since rescinded the bill, which was sent to Gil due to standard procedure for private events involving police services.
"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 said. "I always want to make certain that everyone's Constitutional Rights are fully respected. We will have to adjust the Borough's ordinances accordingly."
Mayor Kranjac added, "I continue to work on resolving the Borough's affordable housing obligations and hope that this Council will adopt some form of the affordable housing plan that I introduced in 2018."
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