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  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

ACLU Challenges Subdivision Rules Prohibiting Residents From Displaying Pride Flags, Social Justice Signs

February 23, 2021

DENVER – ACLU of Colorado filed suit today in federal court to challenge a subdivision’s rules that arbitrarily prohibit residents from displaying certain flags and signs on their own property. David Pendery, the ACLU’s client, wishes to display a Pride flag at his home to convey solidarity with LGBTQ+ families like his. He also wants to post a “We believe …” sign to encourage inclusivity and kindness. But both signs are prohibited by the rules of the Whispering Pines Metropolitan District #1 (Metro District), where Mr. Pendery lives in Arapahoe County.

“Mr. Pendery has a constitutional right to fly a Pride flag and to post a social justice sign on his own property,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director. “The Metro District’s rules, which carry the force of law in the Whispering Pines subdivision, violate the First Amendment and the Colorado Constitution’s guarantee of free expression.”

When Mr. Pendery displayed a Pride flag last summer, he received a violation letter from the Metro District, which has the power to impose fines and place liens on the homes of non-complying residents. The Metro District subsequently granted approval for Mr. Pendery’s Pride flag, but specified that this “approval” would expire on December 31, 2020. The Metro District warned that Mr. Pendery was required to re-apply for “approval” if he wished to fly the flag in 2021.

The Metro District’s rules allow certain flags but prohibit others, like Mr. Pendery’s Pride flag, unless and until advance approval is obtained from the Metro District’s Design Review Committee. Similar rules allow signs with certain messages, but other signs, like the “We believe …” sign Mr. Pendery wants to post, are prohibited without advance approval. The Metro District has complete discretion over whether to grant or deny approval. There are no written guidelines to prevent censorship on the basis of the subject or viewpoint that the flag or sign communicates.

To comply with the Metro District’s rules, Mr. Pendery is currently refraining from displaying the prohibited flag and the unapproved social justice sign. He does not believe he should be required to ask for approval, especially when there are no written guidelines to prevent censorship. ACLU of Colorado has asked the federal district court for an immediate injunction to prevent the Metro District from enforcing its unconstitutional restrictions on Mr. Pendery’s right to engage in constitutionally-protected expression on his own property.

“We immediately felt at home when we moved to the neighborhood last year and formed strong relationships with our neighbors,” Mr. Pendery said. “But it’s incredibly disheartening that the governing body whose primary responsibility is to protect residents’ investments instead chooses to focus its limited resources on violating our right to free speech.”

ACLU’s lawsuit asserts that the rules in Whispering Pines violate the First Amendment in two ways. First, in distinguishing between flags or signs that are automatically allowed and ones that are prohibited absent approval, the rules discriminate on the basis of the message that the sign or flag communicates. Second, when residents are required to seek approval for a sign or a flag, the Metro District has no written guidelines to prevent decisions from being based inappropriately on the message or the viewpoint expressed.

Thousands of Coloradans live in subdivisions or neighborhoods with similar rules that restrict the posting of flags and signs bearing certain messages. Residents are often unaware of restrictions until they receive a notice from their homeowners association (HOA) demanding that a Blue Lives Matter flag or a Black Lives Matter sign be taken down. The HOAs contend that they are private organizations that can restrict speech in ways the government cannot. In contrast, in the ACLU case filed today, the challenged restrictions on Mr. Pendery’s speech are enforced by the Whispering Pines Metropolitan District, a unit of government that is undisputedly bound by the First Amendment.

“The Colorado Constitution declares that all persons shall be free to speak out, but almost all new homes are built in subdivisions with rules enforced by HOAs or metro districts that severely restrict the exercise of this constitutional right,” Silverstein said. “The Colorado legislature should step in and enact legislation to make it clear that both HOAs and metro districts cannot forbid residents from posting signs or flags that express their views on social and political issues.”

In addition to Silverstein, Mr. Pendery is represented by ACLU lawyers Arielle Herzberg and Asma Kadri Keeler, and ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Adam Stern, Maureen Chu, and Desmonne Bennett of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

ACLU of Colorado wants to hear from residents who have received notices that their signs or flags violate the rules of their HOA or metro district. Please write to HOAfreespeech@aclu-co.org.

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The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

ACLU Desafía las Reglas de Subdivisión que Prohíben a los Residentes Exhibir Banderas de Orgullo y Carteles de Justicia Social

DENVER – ACLU de Colorado presentó una demanda hoy en un tribunal federal para impugnar las reglas de una subdivisión que prohíbe arbitrariamente a los residentes exhibir ciertas banderas y letreros en su propia propiedad. David Pendery, cliente de ACLU, desea exhibir una bandera del Orgullo en su casa para transmitir solidaridad con familias LGBTQ + como la suya. También quiere publicar un letrero que diga “Creemos …” para fomentar la inclusión y la amabilidad. Pero ambos letreros están prohibidos por las reglas del Distrito Metropolitano # 1 de Whispering Pines (Distrito Metro), donde el Sr. Pendery vive en el condado de Arapahoe.

“Señor Pendery tiene el derecho constitucional de enarbolar una bandera del Orgullo y de colocar un letrero de justicia social en su propiedad,” dijo Mark Silverstein, Director Legal de la ACLU de Colorado.” Las reglas del Distrito Metro, que tienen fuerza de ley en la subdivisión Whispering Pines, violan la Primera Enmienda y la garantía de libertad de expresión de la Constitución de Colorado.”

Cuando el Sr. Pendery mostró una bandera del Orgullo el verano pasado, recibió una carta de infracción del Distrito Metro, que tiene el poder de imponer multas y embargos en las casas de los residentes que no cumplan. Posteriormente, el Distrito Metro otorgó la aprobación para la bandera del Orgullo del Sr. Pendery, pero especificó que esta “aprobación” caducaría el 31 de diciembre de 2020. El Distrito Metro advirtió que el Sr. Pendery debía volver a solicitar la “aprobación” si deseaba enarbolar la bandera en 2021.

Las reglas del Distrito Metro permiten ciertas banderas pero prohíben otras, como la bandera del Orgullo del Sr. Pendery, a menos que y hasta que se obtenga la aprobación previa del Comité de Revisión de Diseño del Distrito Metro. Reglas similares permiten letreros con ciertos mensajes, pero otros letreros, como el letrero “Creemos…” que el Sr. Pendery quiere colocar, están prohibidos sin aprobación previa. El Distrito Metro tiene total discreción sobre si conceder o denegar la aprobación. No existen pautas escritas para evitar la censura sobre la base del tema o punto de vista que la bandera o letrero comunica.

Para cumplir con las reglas del Distrito Metro, el Sr. Pendery actualmente se abstiene de mostrar la bandera prohibida y el letrero de justicia social no aprobado. No cree que se le deba exigir que solicite aprobación, especialmente cuando no existen pautas escritas para evitar la censura. La ACLU de Colorado ha solicitado al tribunal federal de distrito una orden judicial inmediata para evitar que el Distrito Metro haga cumplir sus restricciones inconstitucionales sobre el derecho del Sr. Pendery a participar en expresiones protegidas constitucionalmente en su propiedad.

“Nos sentimos como en casa cuando nos mudamos al vecindario el año pasado y formamos relaciones sólidas con nuestros vecinos,”’ dijo Pendery. “Pero es increíblemente desalentador que el organismo de gobierno, cuya responsabilidad principal es proteger las inversiones de los residentes, opte por concentrar sus limitados recursos en violar nuestro derecho a la libertad de expresión.”

La demanda de la ACLU afirma que las reglas en Whispering Pines violan la Primera Enmienda de dos maneras. En primer lugar, al distinguir entre banderas o signos que se permiten automáticamente y los que están prohibidos sin aprobación, las reglas discriminan sobre la base del mensaje que comunica el signo o bandera. En segundo lugar, cuando se requiere que los residentes busquen la aprobación de un letrero o una bandera, el Distrito Metro no tiene pautas escritas para evitar que las decisiones se basen de manera inapropiada en el mensaje o el punto de vista expresado.

Miles de habitantes de Colorado viven en subdivisiones o vecindarios con reglas similares que restringen la colocación de banderas y letreros con ciertos mensajes. Los residentes desconocen las restricciones hasta que reciben un aviso de su asociación de propietarios (HOA) exigiendo que se retire una bandera de Blue Lives Matter (las vidas azules importan) o un cartel de Black Lives Matter (las vidas Negras importan). Las HOA sostienen que son organizaciones privadas que pueden restringir la expresión de formas que el gobierno no puede. En contraste, en el caso de la ACLU presentado hoy, las restricciones impugnadas al discurso del Sr. Pendery son impuestas por el Distrito Metropolitano de Whispering Pines, una unidad de gobierno que está indiscutiblemente obligada por la Primera Enmienda.

“La Constitución de Colorado declara que todas las personas tendrán la libertad de expresarse, pero casi todas las casas nuevas se construyen en subdivisiones con reglas impuestas por HOA o distritos metropolitanos que restringen severamente el ejercicio de este derecho constitucional,” dijo Silverstein. “La legislatura de Colorado debería intervenir y promulgar legislación para dejar en claro que tanto las HOA como los distritos metropolitanos no pueden prohibir a los residentes que coloquen carteles o banderas que expresen sus opiniones sobre temas sociales y políticos.”

Además de Silverstein, el Sr. Pendery está representado por los abogados de ACLU Arielle Herzberg y Asma Kadri Keeler, y los abogados cooperantes de ACLU Adam Stern, Maureen Chu y Desmonne Bennett de Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

ACLU de Colorado quiere escuchar a los residentes que han recibido avisos de que sus letreros o banderas violan las reglas de su HOA o distrito metropolitano. Por favor escriba a HOAfreespeech@aclu-co.org.

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ACLU de Colorado es la organización de derechos civiles más antigua del estado, que protege y defiende los derechos civiles de todos los habitantes de Colorado a través del litigio, la educación y la defensa.

 

 



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