A teenager from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, said she received a nearly $2,500 bill from the mayor after she held a Black Lives Matter protest in the borough last month.
The mayor, Mario Kranjac, has since said he rescinded the invoice. “I always want to make certain that everyone’s Constitutional Rights are fully respected,” he wrote in a letter to protest organizer Emily Gil that was provided to NBC News on Saturday. “We will have to adjust the Borough’s ordinances accordingly.”
Gil, 18, told NJ.com in a story published Friday that she organized a small, peaceful rally on July 25 to protest the borough’s lack of affordable housing, which she said causes Black residents to be priced out of Englewood Cliffs.
The community in northern New Jersey, about 10 miles from New York City, has a population of about 5,400 that is 52.6 percent white, 42 percent Asian and 1.4 percent Black or African American, according to a census report in 2019. The median value of its owner-occupied homes is about $1 million and the median rent with utilities is $3,259.
“Englewood Cliffs has dodged affordable housing requirements for 40-plus years,” Gil told NJ.com. “I find that unacceptable.”
She said the protest was attended by 30 to 40 people, and that there were no disturbances and everyone cleaned up their trash. Four days after the protest, she said she received a letter from the mayor saying she must pay $2,499.26 for “police overtime caused by your protest,” according to NJ.com, which said it obtained a copy of the letter.
“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 stated.
NBC News has not seen a copy of this initial letter from the mayor.
The teen told NJ.com that borough officials had asked to meet with her in person prior to her protest but she declined because of coronavirus concerns. Gil said she instead offered to meet with them over Zoom, but that officials kept insisting on an in-person meeting and eventually stopped responding to her.
Kranjac told the outlet that “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.”
In his letter Saturday, the mayor changed his stance.
“The bill for police overtime that you were provided was issued pursuant to the advice I received from our Borough Administrator who I understand consulted the Borough Attorney,” Kranjac wrote. “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.”
“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. I always want to make certain that everyone’s Constitutional Rights are fully respected. We will have to adjust the Borough’s ordinances accordingly,” the mayor’s letter said.
Kranjac went on to say that he will continue to work on meeting Englewood Cliffs’ affordable housing obligations and that he hopes the borough council “will adopt some form of the affordable housing plan that I introduced in 2018.”
The Englewood Cliffs Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.
An attempt to reach Kranjac for comment was not immediately successful.