N.J. teen who held Black Lives Matter protest gets hit with $2,500 bill for police overtime

Posted Aug 28,2020

When Emily Gil learned of the lack of affordable housing in Englewood Cliffs — and the fact she believes Black residents are priced out of her Bergen County hometown — she felt an urgent need to enact change.

The 18-year-old, who graduated from Bergen County Technical School in June, organized a small, peaceful Black Lives Matter protest last month, she says.

“Englewood Cliffs has dodged affordable housing requirements for 40-plus years,” Gil told NJ Advance Media. “I find that unacceptable.”

Four days after the July 25 rally, Gil received a hefty bill for police overtime.

“Please promptly forward your payment to the borough in the amount of $2,499.26 for the police overtime caused by your protest,” Englewood Cliffs Mayor Mario M. Kranjac wrote in a letter.

The letter provided to NJ Advance Media states that since Gil had refused to meet with officials ahead of the protest, the borough was left scrambling to provide security.

“Your lack of notification left the borough with little time to prepare for your protest so that the police department and department of public works could ensure that everyone would be safe,” the letter states.

Gil explained that borough officials had requested she meet with them in person but she declined due to concerns over the coronavirus. She offered to meet with them on Zoom instead but they didn’t accept, she said.

“They kept pushing (an in-person meeting) and then they stopped responding to me,” she said.

Gil said only 30 to 40 people attended the rally, caused no disturbances and picked up their own trash. In an email, Gil complained about the overtime bill to Englewood Cliffs Police Chief William Henkelman.

Henkelman wrote back that he had notified the borough of the “extensive preparation required and the additional staffing that was needed, including overtime expenses.”

Gil said Friday she emailed the mayor “about the legitimacy of the bill” more than two weeks ago and that he has not responded.

Kranjac told NJ Advance Media on Friday to say that the protesters’ “First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble were fully honored by the borough.”

“Ms. Gil is misinformed when she links our affordable housing issues with her protest, and she is wrong when she writes that I voted against affordable housing,” the mayor said. “Everyone is welcome in Englewood Cliffs.”

The mayor said the bill was sent to Gil to cover the expense of providing security.

“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,” Kranjac said.

Henkelman did not immediately respond Friday morning to requests for comment.

Despite Kranjac’s comments, Gil said she has “reason to believe that it was because of my pro-affordable housing stance that Mr. Kranjac handled the situation this way.”

“Englewood Cliffs is trying to intimidate and silence people who are standing up for Black Lives Matter and the implementation of affordable housing,” she said.

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