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 of Colorado Files Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Denver Police Spyfiles on Peaceful Protest Activities

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit today challenging the Denver Police Department's practice of monitoring and recording the peaceful protest activities of Denver-area residents, keeping files on the expressive activities of law-abiding advocacy organizations, and sharing those files with third parties.

The suit also charges that Denver police have falsely labeled the ACLU's clients as "criminal extremist," including the American Friends Service Committee, an 85-year-old pacifist Quaker group that has won the Nobel Peace Prize for its advocacy of nonviolent social change; and Sister Antonia Anthony, a 73-year-old Franciscan nun whose opinions and lawful protest activity are documented in police files.

Additional plaintiffs are End the Politics of Cruelty, a Denver-based human rights organization that has focused on issues of police accountability; the Chiapas Coalition, which conducts education and advocacy activities supporting the struggle of indigenous persons in the Mexican state of Chiapas; and Stephen and Vicki Nash, whose participation in peaceful protest activities is also the subject of police files.

The ACLU first revealed the political spying at a news conference March 11, when it disclosed several pages from the Denver police "Spy Files" and called on Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb to put a stop to the practice, to make a full public accounting, and to permit individuals to review their files.

Two days later, Mayor Webb said that Denver police had gone too far, compiling "intelligence files" on 3200 individuals and 208 organizations, many of which posed no threat. He further stated that Denver police had strayed from the City's written policy, which prohibits keeping files on First Amendment activities unless the information is directly related to criminal activity and there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in that criminal activity.

"Mayor Webb deserves credit for acknowledging that the Denver police Spy Files pose a threat to First Amendment rights," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "But so far the City has not agreed that individuals will be able to review their files, and it has shown no interest in holding the police department accountable for this blatant and systematic violation of the clearly-written City policy."

Excerpts from the Spy Files attached to the ACLU lawsuit show that the Denver police have recorded the following kinds of information about specific individuals:

  • membership in specific advocacy organizations labeled as "criminal extremist," such as the American Friends Service Committee, End The Politics of Cruelty, and the Chiapas Coalition;
  • organizing and speaking at events sponsored by Amnesty International;
  • attendance in 2000 at demonstrations sponsored by the Justice for Mena Committee, which sought to hold Denver police accountable for the killing of Ismael Mena in a botched no-knock raid in 1999;
  • participation in protests against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, D.C.;
  • the purported opinion of plaintiff Sister Antonia that "global financial policies are responsible for the uprisings in Chiapas, Mexico";
  • being "seen" at a demonstration in 2000 protesting the celebration of Columbus Day;
  • license numbers and descriptions of vehicles used by individuals identified as participants in peaceful protest activities;
  • home addresses and personal descriptions of individuals engaged in lawful expressive activity;
  • the address of a private residence that an individual reportedly "frequents";

"There is no legitimate reason to keep these kinds of files on the peaceful expression of political views and opinions," said Lino Lipinsky, of McKenna & Cuneo, who filed the lawsuit as an ACLU cooperating attorney. "Denver residents should feel free to join a peaceful protest without fear that their names will wind up in police files."

"By monitoring peaceful expressive activity in this manner and by falsely branding law-abiding organizations as criminals and extremists," Silverstein added, "the police will make Denver residents afraid to express their views and afraid to participate fully in our democracy."

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs represent a class of as many as 3200 individuals and 208 organizations who have been targeted because of their peaceful expressive activities. At the present time, Lipinsky said, the lawsuit asks for injunctive relief rather than monetary damages. The ACLU seeks an enforceable order prohibiting the Denver police department from collecting, maintaining, and disseminating information on peaceful protest activities. It will also ask the court to order that the police records be expunged, after first permitting targets of the police surveillance to review their files. Finally, the ACLU will ask the court to order Denver to cooperate in tracking down whatever copies of the files have been sent to other law enforcement agencies and other third parties.

The lawsuit, American Friends Service Committee v. City and County of Denver, was filed in Denver District Court. 

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