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. 

Alamosa Business Owner may Resume Displaying American Flag Upside Down to Express his Views on Iraq War

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) announced today that as a result of an agreement with Alamosa city officials, an Alamosa business owner may resume displaying an American flag upside-down in his store window to express his views on the war in Iraq.

John Fleming, owner of The Roost, a store which sells books and music on State Street in Alamosa, prompted controversy last month when he displayed the American flag upside down in his store window. According to Fleming, the Boy Scout Manual says that an upside-down flag communicates distress. Fleming believes that the war in Iraq is a sign that our country is in distress.

“Mr. Fleming’s flag display is peaceful symbolic expression that is fully protected by the First Amendment,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director.

Shortly after Fleming set up his flag display, however, he received a visit from Alamosa’s Chief of Police, who told Fleming that the display violated a Colorado statute. He threatened to charge Fleming with a crime unless he took down the display.

“Our client was threatened with prosecution under an old Colorado statute that states that “contempt of flag” is a crime,” Silverstein said. “The statute makes it unlawful to ‘mutilate, deface, defile, trample upon, burn, cut or tear any flag in public.’ Mr. Fleming did none of those things.”

“Even if that old statute applied to Mr. Fleming’s flag display,” Silverstein continued, “the statute violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court has recognized on numerous occasions that the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to use the symbolism of the American flag in a manner intended to communicate ideas and opinions. That is exactly what Mr. Fleming did in this case.”

According to the ACLU, the threat of prosecution silenced Mr. Fleming. “To avoid having to defend himself on a baseless criminal charge, Mr. Fleming took his flag display out of the window,” Silverstein said. Mr. Fleming then contacted the ACLU, which was prepared to file a lawsuit to protect Mr. Fleming’s right of expression. The need for litigation was avoided, however, when Alamosa officials agreed to resolve the dispute. “The Alamosa City Manager and City Attorney deserve credit for acting promptly to resolve this matter without litigation,” Silverstein said. “The City Attorney assures me that he has discussed this matter with the Chief of Police, who now understands that Mr. Fleming’s flag display is constitutionally-protected expression. Mr. Fleming will now be able to move his display back to his store window without interference from the police.” 

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