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 won't have to pay. After WLNY reported on the bill sent to the teen organizer, the mayor said she wouldn't have to pay it. "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 wrote. "I always want to make certain that everyone's Constitutional Rights are fully respected. We will have to adjust the Borough's ordinances accordingly."
Congress to vote on decriminalizing marijuana. A U.S. House of Representatives vote on marijuana decriminalization will take place in September, according to Rep. Jim Clyburn (D–S.C.).
The legislation, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, expunge some past drug convictions, and leave it up to the states how to regulate the substance—all of which would be hugely positive steps.
Alas, the bill would also set a 5 percent federal tax on marijuana sales in states that choose to legalize.
Tech worker visas getting harder to come by. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services "continues to deny H-1B visas at high rates, including for high-skilled foreign nationals sponsored by many of the best companies in the world," notes Stuart Anderson at Forbes, pointing to a recent policy brief from the National Foundation for American Policy.
"All the top 25 employers of new H-1B professionals had higher denial rates for H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2020 (through the second quarter) than in FY 2015," the report states. And "20 of the 25 top companies had H-1B denial rates for initial employment at least 10 percentage points higher in FY 2020 (through the second quarter) than in FY 2015. That includes large technology companies such as Cisco and Google."
• Police PR departments are coming under well-deserved scrutiny.
• Colleges are cracking down on returning students who party without taking COVID-19 precautions. USA Today talks with experts who say it's a bad idea.
• Massachusetts parents are protesting public schools' new requirement that every student receive a flu vaccine.
• A man in Portland was fatally shot on Saturday night, after a caravan of Trump supporters showed up to protest Black Lives Matter protesters. The "man was wearing a hat bearing the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group whose members have frequently clashed with protesters in Portland in the past," the Associated Press reports. A Portland Police Bureau statement says that "Portland Police officers heard sounds of gunfire from the area of Southeast 3rd Avenue and Southwest Alder Street. They responded and located a victim with a gunshot wound to the chest. Medical responded and determined that the victim was deceased."
• Three public housing tenants "were never told that their interviews would be edited into a two-minute video clip that would air prominently on Thursday night at the Republican National Convention," reports The New York Times.
• Polling data suggest "Biden's electoral prospects and the popularity of Black Lives Matter are not closely linked."
• California continues to be California:
Newsom says he will sign Sen. Jerry Hill's bill to ban the retail sales of flavored tobacco products.
— Taryn Luna (@TarynLuna) August 28, 2020
• Just a Chicago Teachers Union local tweeting in support of guillotines:
— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) August 27, 2020