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. 

In ACLU Lawsuit, Greeley Agrees to Stop Enforcing “Median Ban” That Targets Panhandlers

September 10, 2019

DENVER – In response to an ACLU of Colorado lawsuit filed this morning in federal court, the City of Greeley has agreed to immediately stop enforcing its ordinance that bans pedestrians from being present on traffic medians “for longer than necessary to cross the street.” The lawsuit asserts that the “Median Ban” violates the free speech rights of people who want to stand on medians to engage in expressive conduct, including solicitation of charity. According to the lawsuit, Greeley enacted and has enforced the ordinance to target impoverished and unhoused panhandlers.  

“Across Colorado and around the country, medians have long been a safe harbor for conveying messages to motorists, by waving signs for political candidates, advertising businesses, or taking stands on the issues of the day,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Soliciting funds, whether by firefighters holding out their boots or by poor people seeking assistance for themselves, is expression protected by the First Amendment, but forbidden by this Greeley ordinance.”  

In recent years, courts have held that ordinances violate the right of free speech when they directly regulate panhandling or solicitation. Some communities, like Greeley, responded by targeting panhandling differently, by banning pedestrian presence in locations where panhandling often takes place. A number of lawsuits challenging such “median bans” are pending around the country and no court has upheld an ordinance like Greeley’s, that bans all pedestrian presence on all medians throughout the city.  

ACLU’s clients include three impoverished persons who panhandle on medians in order to obtain the funds to meet their most basic needs and a fourth individual who wants to stand on medians to convey political messages to passing vehicles.  

“Solicitation is a means of survival for many, and it is speech protected by the First Amendment,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Arash Jahanian. “It is time for local governments to stop seeking new ways to criminalize poverty and instead focus that precious money and attention on housing and services.”

Today’s lawsuit requests a preliminary injunction, which Greeley does not oppose.  “We are pleased that Greeley has agreed to stop enforcing this unconstitutional law,” said Dan Williams, of Hutchinson, Black and Cook, who is litigating the case as an ACLU Cooperating Attorney. “We are proud to be part of this effort and hope that it will have a lasting impact not just in Greeley, but throughout Colorado.”

Additional attorneys representing the plaintiffs are ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca Wallace and Cooperating Attorney Colleen Koch of Hutchinson, Black and Cook.  


The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

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