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 Sues Aurora Police for Ousting Black Man in Hoodie from Coffee Shop

APD Officer: “Your kind of business is not welcome here” 

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado filed a federal lawsuit this morning on behalf of Omar Hassan, a black man who was forcibly removed from a coffee shop by two Aurora Police officers who told him, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.”

Hassan did nothing more than order a muffin and sit down to eat it when, according to the lawsuit, the two officers singled him out because of his race and, with their hands placed on their guns, forced him to leave.

“Our client is the victim of unjustifiable racial profiling,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.  “Police officers had no grounds, no basis, and no legitimate authority to order Mr. Hassan to leave the coffee shop.”

According to the lawsuit, on March 16, 2016, Hassan entered a Caribou Coffee in Aurora and approached the counter to purchase a muffin. He had just finished a night shift at work and was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants, and work boots.

Aurora police officers Machelle Williby and Lisa Calcamuggio took notice of him and stood close behind him as he ordered.  They then followed him to a table, stood directly over him with their hands placed on their guns, and commanded him to leave.

When Hassan asked why he was being told to leave, Officer Williby responded, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.”  Hassan then asked, “Who says that?”  Officer Williby motioned her head toward the counter and said, “They do.”

Management, however, made it clear that the police officers were acting on their own.  Employees of the coffee shop did not ask police to remove Hassan, nor had there been any complaints about him, according to a signed affidavit from the manager on duty at the time of the incident.

“I did nothing wrong that morning and was targeted because I was a black man wearing a hoodie,” Hassan said. “When I walked into the coffee shop, I thought I could buy my breakfast and eat it, just like everyone else.  The next thing I knew, two police officers were standing over me, hands on their guns, ordering me to leave.  At that moment, I thought things could go very wrong and I could be another unarmed black man gunned down by the police.  I was afraid and followed their orders, even though I knew what they were doing was wrong.  Now, with the ACLU at my side, I’m fighting back against racial profiling by the Aurora police.”

According to the ACLU complaint, “Mr. Hassan’s experience in discrimination is unique in its reflection of both historical and modern-day racism.  His dress, including a hoodie, made him a particular target as a black man in the current environment.  Officer Williby then vocalized her prejudice by telling Mr. Hassan his ‘kind’ was not welcome at the coffee shop, a statement steeped in historical racism.”

“Aurora police officers have been named in incident after incident of mistreating young persons of color and violating their constitutional rights, and the department has repeatedly failed to hold its officers accountable,” Silverstein said.  “Our client’s complaint to internal affairs produced zero results, and Aurora refuses to release any details.   The department clearly needs effective anti-bias training and a truly independent citizen oversight body.”

The lawsuit, which was filed this morning in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, seeks compensatory and punitive damages.  Hassan is represented by Silverstein, as well as ACLU staff attorneys Rebecca T. Wallace and Arash Jahanian.


Read the ACLU complaint:

See also, Aurora Police Pays $110K for Unlawful Detention and Tasing of Darsean Kelley


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