Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 9.17.2019

On Constitution Day, A Vision for Inclusion

At the American Civil Liberties Union, we consider Constitution Day on September 17 to be an important occasion, remembering the signing of the U.S. Constitution on that day in 1787.  Beginning with the words, “We the people,” the Constitution is the foundation of our nation’s system of government. The Constitution establishes essential principles of checks and balances, separation of powers, peaceful transitions of power, due process, equal protection, and everything promised in the Bill of Rights, from freedom of speech and protest to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

Unfortunately, many of these principles and promises that are so essential to our democracy are currently under attack. In some cases, they have never been fully realized in the first place. The work of the ACLU is to protect, defend, and advance civil rights and civil liberties for everyone. This means making the promises of the Constitution not just words on a piece of paper but real for everyone, not just for some.

A big part of our challenge is rooted in the history of our nation and the Constitution itself. Despite the inclusive language in our nation’s early days of “We the people”, “created equal”, and “liberty and justice for all,” the lived reality of our founding was anything but inclusive. The Constitution itself protected and upheld slavery. Rights were not honored for the indigenous people already here, and women were disenfranchised from the start. The central story of our nation’s history is the struggle to overcome these issues and to bring our reality closer to the inclusive values we have always proclaimed. The central question is which vision for our nation will ultimately prevail.

The threats to our democracy that we face today have taken a new form, but the underlying forces of white supremacy, patriarchy, violence and inequity are not new. The Constitution gives us powerful tools to protect the rights of all people and even to reform flaws rooted in the Constitution itself. We cannot afford to allow governmental checks and balances to break down, to let the integrity of our elections be destroyed, or to treat our nation’s leaders as above the law. More than ever, we need to protect an independent press, an independent judiciary, rights of protest, rights of privacy, separation of church and state, and freedoms not limited by race, gender, or any other aspect of human identity.

Constitution Day is a reminder that we all have a role to play in protecting our democracy and making it work better. ACLU of Colorado is committed to improving education about the Constitution, led by our new Community Education Manager, Jessica Howard.  And in everything else we do, whether fighting mass incarceration, challenging the criminalization of poverty, protecting immigrant families, defending reproductive rights, seeking to end the death penalty, or resisting voter suppression, we are using the tools of the Constitution to fulfill the best of our nation’s history and overcome the worst.

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  • 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: acluco.org/redemption. 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 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.