Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • 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

  • 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. 

ACLU demands that Manitou Springs dismiss unconstitutional panhandling charges against Texas musician

Invoking right of free expression, ACLU demands that Manitou Springs dismiss criminal charges filed against Texas musician under unconstitutional ordinance forbidding ‘panhandling’

CONTACT: Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, 303-777-5482 x114

In a letter sent today to the City of Manitou Springs prosecuting attorney, the ACLU of Colorado relied on the constitutional right of free expression in demanding that the city dismiss criminal charges filed against a Texas musician accused of violating an unconstitutional city ordinance forbidding “panhandling.”

“Last spring, the Manitou Springs City Attorney correctly advised the City Council that the city’s blanket ban on ‘panhandling’ everywhere in the city is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The council declined to take any action. Now the city is prosecuting our client and others for allegedly violating an ordinance that the city’s own legal advisor acknowledges is unconstitutional.”

The Manitou Springs ordinance defines “panhandling” as the solicitation of money or other things of value “where nothing of value is rendered in return.” The ordinance makes it a criminal offense to solicit or “panhandle” anywhere in the city, either on public or private property.

“Our client was carrying a guitar; he was not panhandling,” Silverstein explained. “Even if our client had been playing music and peacefully requesting donations, however, that activity is expression that is protected by the First Amendment. The City of Manitou Springs cannot constitutionally enforce this blanket ban on the peaceful and harmless activities it has wrongly defined as a criminal offense.”

The charge against the ACLU’s client was based on a citizen complaint signed by Nancy Sage Barnes, who has served on the Manitou Springs Economic Development Council and was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 2007 and 2009.

Silverstein said the ACLU’s client has a court date on November 17 and will have to travel from his home in Texas unless the charges are dropped before then. The ACLU asked the city’s prosecutor to respond by November 9, and it also asked that the prosecutor dismiss charges against any other persons who are currently facing ”panhandling” charges under the defective ordinance.

In a separate letter invoking the Colorado open records laws, the ACLU asked the City of Manitou Springs to provide copies of all citations issued in the last two years for violation of the unconstitutional panhandling ordinance.

About the ACLU of Colorado
The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the principles of the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy and public education.  The ACLU Foundation of Colorado works to protect the rights of all Coloradans.

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