Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 7.23.2014

Lifting Lives: 2014 Multi-Cultural Day at the Denver Federal Center

In his January 1964 article published in the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that the “civil rights legislation now before Congress” was “born in the streets of Birmingham amid snarling dogs and the battering of fire hoses. It was fashioned in the jail cells of the South and by the marching feet in the North. It became the order of the day at the great March On Washington last summer” (King). In this characteristically poetic way, Dr. King traced the long, arduous, and tragically costly path that eventually led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act on July 2nd, 1964.

Fifty years later, it is our obligation to remember the great perseverance, sacrifice, and unbreakable faith of the many individuals whose united efforts culminated in the passage of this landmark legislation. It is also our responsibility to examine the progress made toward equal opportunity in the last half-decade and, most importantly, to reaffirm our commitment to continued endeavors for social justice.

Last Wednesday, the Department of the Interior (DOI) did just that at its 2014 Multi-Cultural Day at the Denver Federal Center. The event was centered on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act and featured speakers, artists, and nonprofits who promote social justice and civil rights. The ACLU of Colorado was invited to participate in the Exhibit Booth Show, which was an excellent opportunity to share the work we do in defense of Coloradoans’ civil rights with Federal Center employees. The vast majority of employees we spoke to were familiar with the ACLU, and many thanked us for our work. It was humbling and inspiring to receive the gratitude of people who regulate our national parks, lead energy commissions, and work for the Department of Education.

The ACLU’s booth.

The ACLU’s booth




booth materials

ACLU booth materials

List of organizations at the Exhibit Booth Show

List of organizations at the Exhibit Booth Show














During a lull in booth activity, I attended a portion of the panel discussion on the Civil Rights Act and its impact. The panel consisted of professors and Department of Education employees who are involved in the study and remedy of contemporary civil rights issues. The moderator’s first question to the four panelists was: “In your opinion, what are the three most pressing civil rights issues of today?”  There were several issues that multiple panelists agreed were the most critical; these included voting rights, mass incarceration and prisoners’ rights, the school-to-prison pipeline, inequities in education, and immigration reform. Unsurprisingly, these issues align with the ACLU’s current priorities. As Judith Browne Dianis elucidates in her article “Under Fire” in the Winter 2014 edition of Stand magazine, the ACLU has been at the forefront of many of the most significant civil rights victories since 1964 (Browne Dianis, 28-33). Fifty years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the ACLU remains fervently dedicated to the protection and extension of individuals’ civil rights, and is committed to ameliorating the most pressing civil rights issues of today.

I left the DOI Multi-Cultural Day with a profound gratitude for the people (both past and present) who have tirelessly worked to empower, emancipate, and lift the lives of others. It is a great honor to work beside such dedicated guardians of others’ civil rights. And it is a true privilege to live in a country that passed the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago. As one panelist pointed out, progress toward social justice is never inevitable and rarely linear. But it is possible with the dedication, faith, and compassion of people like those who helped get the civil rights legislation into and through Congress. As we look toward the future, let us remember that we too are capable of producing such progress and that it is our responsibility to lift, rather than restrict, the lives of others.

Certificate given to the ACLU from the DOI

Certificate given to the ACLU from the DOI












Browne Dianis, Judith. “Under Fire.” Stand Winter 2014: 28-33. Print.

King, Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. “A Look to 1964.” New York Amsterdam News [New York] 1 Jan. 1964: The King Center. Web. 17 July 2014. <>.



  • 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.