Colorado Rights Blog

Caryn Osterman By: Caryn Osterman 9.17.2014

Happy Constitution Day!

Constitution Day is the one day a year when we take time to celebrate the signing of our Constitution — the supreme law of the United States — created by our Founding Fathers on September 17, 1787.

This monumental document bestows our rights and freedoms and provides the framework for our government — both federal and state — and the relationship between the two.  It incorporates pivotal concepts of separation of power and checks and balances to ensure that no one branch of government becomes too powerful over another.  It has been amended twenty-seven times since 1789 and continues to be interpreted and challenged 225 years later.  That’s something to celebrate!

Originally recognized as “I Am an American Day”, in 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a resolution to observe “Citizenship Day” on the actual day the Constitution was signed – September 17th.  Constitution Day became an official holiday alongside Citizenship Day in 2004 when legislation introduced by Senator Robert Byrd passed through Congress.  Since 2005, all schools receiving federal funds are mandated to teach about the Constitution on September 17th.

I can’t recall baking cupcakes for my children’s school’s Constitution Day party nor have I ever been invited to a Constitution Day barbeque.  So, how does one celebrate a holiday that doesn’t lend itself to balloons, streamers, and decorations?  We can make it a priority to teach and learn something new about this document and talk about it with our children, other family members, co-workers and friends.

Last year, ACLU of Colorado volunteers went into middle school, high school, and college classes to teach about the Constitution.  We will be doing the same this year but in addition, we would like to share with you resources on our website that you can use to learn and teach about the Constitution. You can take the ACLU of Colorado’s Constitution Word Search – a fun way to test your knowledge and learn some basic Constitutional facts.  Please also take a moment to sign our petition to President Obama to make Constitution Day an official federal holiday.

So, if you are a teacher, a parent, or a civic-minded citizen, please take a moment today to recognize and celebrate the Constitution and the rights and freedoms that it bestows.  We’ll keep fighting every day to ensure those rights are protected and extended to all people in Colorado.

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  • 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 https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • 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. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.