New Jersey Mayor Bills Teen Protest Organizer for Police Overtime Pay
Your speech is free; now here’s the bill. The Black Lives Matter protest that Emily Gils organized last month in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, seemed to go well. Then Gils, 18, got the bill.
The city wanted Gils to pay $2,500.
This wasn’t a fine for violating any criminal laws or civic codes. Gils had even “notified local officials about the protest” in June and “met with the police chief to iron out logistics,” says WLNY.
The protest itself wasn’t much—a small gathering of people in front of Gils’ home for about an hour and a half, holding signs in support of Black Lives Matter and affordable housing—but Gil said she wanted to do something to show that people in her area cared about the issues. “I would say it went really well,” Gil told WLNY. “We stood there with our signs and people were honking and showing support.”
But the city apparently decided that this event required extra policing—and that Gils should have to pay for the service. The bill she received from city Mayor Mario Kranjac said the fee for was for police overtime pay required because of Gils’ 90-minute front-yard protest.
“I was shocked when I read that I had to pay to exercise my First Amendment right,” Gil told WLNY.
Mayor Kranjac told WLNY the bill was not politically motivated but normal protocol: Englewood Cliffs residents must effectively pay for the right to protest—even on private property—due to a law that requires all protests to receive special police attention and requires citizens to pay for this special protest “protection” and monitoring.
“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,” Kranjac told WLNY. “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,” he explained.
The city’s (all too common) policy is especially galling when it comes to First Amendment–protected issues like protests. But it’s more broadly ridiculous as well. If a police presence is really required for these normal community activities—and that’s a big if—why isn’t this considered simply part of the normal function of police?
At least Gils
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