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 seeks changes to Denver’s proposed permit laws being revised in anticipation of the Democratic National Convention

Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass, 303-777-5482 x104; 303-817-9502
Executive Director Cathryn Hazouri, 303-777-5482 x116; 303-257-7455

The ACLU Foundation of Colorado today sent a letter to Denver city officials detailing “serious constitutional problems” with the City’s proposed laws for parade and park permits. Although the laws are being revised by Denver in anticipation of the 2008 DNC, the proposed changes would affect all Denver permit requests from the moment they are adopted by City Council, up through the DNC, and beyond.

In particular, the letter highlights concerns with Denver’s proposal to grant the government blanket priority over private citizens’ free speech. Under the proposed ordinance, when there are competing applications for Denver’s sidewalks, streets or parks, the government would automatically be granted the permit. The ACLU criticized the proposal as permitting a “de facto government monopoly” on Denver’s historic public spaces, especially during major events like the DNC during which Denver and other federal, state or local government entities could lock up all of Denver’s most central and visible parade routes and parks by simply holding or co-sponsoring favored events.

“Under the provision as drafted, an event that is ‘presented’ by any government or its ‘agents’ gets priority to use Denver’s public parks, streets and sidewalks,” explained ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass. “A system that universally grants so-called government events preferential treatment over the free speech of private citizens is both unwise and unconstitutional.”

“Under this proposed law, if a government entity like the North Dakota Milk Marketing Board and a private group of Denver WWII Veterans both file applications to parade down Colfax on Veteran’s Day, the Milk Marketing Board would automatically get the permit and the Veterans would be told to march somewhere else,” said Pendergrass. “At the DNC, Denver or any other federal, state or local government can simply co-sponsor any event it favors, monopolizing Denver’s public parks and streets for government-approved activities. We don’t believe that is what the constitution allows, nor frankly is it what we expected from city officials who have repeatedly pledged to respect free speech rights.”

The ACLU also says proposals that would require permits for the free speech of “one or more persons” are unconstitutional. The ACLU letter claims the permit requirement “is broad enough to include one person walking through or sitting in a park with a sign that states ‘Repent Now! The End is Near’ or ‘Impeach the Mayor.’ Indeed, it is so broad as to include a person walking through or sitting in a park wearing a T-shirt containing such a message.”

The letter also encourages the city to waive provisions levying fees on free speech parades, and urges the city to drop or revise provisions that would require permit applications to be submitted a month and a half in advance. The ACLU also demanded the laws be amended in a number of places to include detailed guidance for city officials who will be deciding whether to grant permit applications, in order to prevent them from denying permits based on the content of the speech. The ACLU says the laws as drafted contain few concrete standards and therefore give city officials “unbridled discretion” when considering permit applications. The Supreme Court has long held that vague and subjective permitting standards violate the First Amendment.

“Denver has made some important changes and we are encouraged by their willingness to consider our comments, but we still have a long way to go,” said Cathryn Hazouri, the ACLU of Colorado’s Executive Director. “Fortunately, that is what this process is all about. City officials still have time to demonstrate that their stated commitment to free speech rights is more than just lip service. They can do so by making changes to these laws and avoiding the black eye that cities like Boston received during the 2004 DNC.”

City officials have told the ACLU of Colorado they will review the ACLU’s comments on the proposed changes before submitting the final version of the changes to Denver’s City Council. “Whenever the City Council meets to consider the changes, we’ll be there,” said Hazouri. “We hope to be talking to the City Council more about what is right with the ordinance, rather than the other way around.”

The letter was sent on behalf of the ACLU of Colorado and attorneys from some of Denver’s top law firms including Dorsey & Whitney, Holland & Hart, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, Otten Johnson Robinson Neff & Ragonetti, and Recht & Kornfeld, who have signed on as ACLU of Colorado cooperating attorneys for the purpose of protecting constitutional rights at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Read the full letter sent to Denver by the ACLU of Colorado. 

   * ACLU Comments on Denver's Proposed Permit 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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