An 18-year-old activist from New Jersey was billed almost $ 2,500 in police overtime after organizing a small protest over a lack of affordable housing in a local borough. She claims the mayor wants to ‘intimidate and silence’ her.
Emily Gil, a high school graduate, received the hefty bill from the office of Mario Kranjac, the mayor of Englewood Cliffs in Bergen County, New Jersey. She has to compensate the borough for $ 2,499.26 in police overtime caused by a protest she organized last month, the mayor wrote to her.
The expenses related to a small event on July 25, which demonstrated against what Gil perceives as a longstanding policy of pricing black residents out of the county.
“Englewood Cliffs has dodged affordable housing requirements for 40-plus years,” Gil told NJ Advance Media, a local outlet that first reported the story. “I find that unacceptable.”
The protest attracted some 30 to 40 people and went off peacefully, Gill said. But the mayor’s office said she failed to properly notify the local authorities and they had to scramble to provide necessary security. Billing overtime to the organizer is a routine policy for all private events, Kranjac said.
“We always bill… the bicycle race or running race or any other event, where our police are used, including utility work, people pay for the overtime,” the mayor told WCBS.
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Gill received the bill four days after the rally and has been contesting its legitimacy since. She believes the mayor’s office is misrepresenting her failure to meet local officials about the protests in person, saying she was concerned about Covid-19 and offered to communicate via Zoom instead. She sees the bill as an attempt to “intimidate and silence people who are standing up for Black Lives Matter and the implementation of affordable housing.”
After her story made the news, Democratic members of the Englewood Cliffs Council expressed support for the young organizer. They said the mayor should be “ashamed of himself” and promised to help nullify the bill.
“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,” they said in a statement. “Mayor Kranjac owes Emily and every other resident of our community an apology for his divisive actions.”
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Mayor Kranjac, the first Republican to hold the office in decades, has a longstanding grudge against Democratic members of the council since his election in 2015. Last year, the body voted to censure the mayor after he allegedly threatened to punch a departing municipal attorney. Earlier, they overturned his decision to remove a memorial to a popular Democratic official.
Englewood Cliffs has some 5,400 residents. Black people constitute just over two percent of them, according to the 2010 census. Kranjac said, contrary to what Gil and other Black Lives Matter protesters believe about his policies, he has been addressing the housing issue, unlike his predecessors.
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