September marked a special time for our organization. With hundreds of our supporters, allies, donors, and partners, ACLU of Colorado celebrated 70 years as Colorado’s largest and oldest civil rights organization. “Toward Liberty: 70 years of Action” was also a celebration of the hard work done by community leaders and organizations that have made tremendous strides in protecting and advancing civil rights and civil liberties in our state. Each year, ACLU of Colorado has honored leaders in transformational change in our communities. The success of our work advancing equity would not be possible without the dedication of these visionary leaders.
Meet our 2022 honorees:
Elizabeth Wang of Loevy & Loevy, and Timothy Macdonald, Matthew Douglas, Diana Sterk, Ed Aro, and the rest of the Arnold & Porter LLP team
A landmark decision in the first lawsuit to go to trial on behalf of activists protesting George Floyd’s murder would not have been possible without the hard work of two teams of attorneys in Colorado. Elizabeth Wang of Loevy & Loevy and Timothy Macdonald, Matthew Douglas, Diana Sterk, Ed Aro, and the Arnold & Porter LLP team were recognized with the Edward Sherman Award for fighting on behalf of a dozen Denver protestors whose civil rights were violated by Denver Police (DPD). A jury awarded $14 million to the protestors represented in the Section 1983 Civil Rights lawsuit against DPD for their illegal use of force on the protestors and for violating the protestors’ first amendment rights.
A veteran journalist in Colorado, Vic Vela, was honored with our Larry Tajiri Award for his honesty and compassion in sharing stories of substance use and recovery. Vela, who is currently a news host and reporter for Colorado Public Radio (CPR), has been a journalist for more than 20 years. While working with CPR, Vela launched the podcast, Back from Broken, where he’s been vulnerable and transparent about his experience in recovery from addiction. In the podcast, Vela and his guests share their stories of recovery to portray the resilience and courage people in recovery share. Vela is working to shift the discourse of substance use in news coverage.
Harm Reduction Action Center
The Harm Reduction Action Center (HRAC) is a safe place for thousands of people in the Denver metro area. The team at HRAC was recognized with the Ralph L. Carr Award for their work educating, empowering, and advocating for the health and dignity of Denver’s community members through syringe access, overdose prevention, health testing, and more. In the last 10 years, the center has served more than 12,000 people. Each morning, they provide health services to up to 125 people. The center offers a syringe access program, health education classes, and community engagement programming. The volunteer-led team has helped pass legislation and implement policy changes on the state and city levels.
Senator Pete Lee
During his eight years serving in Colorado’s legislature, Senator Pete Lee led transformative work advancing criminal justice reform and restorative justice. He was honored with the Carle Whitehead Memorial Award for his work. In his tenure, Senator Lee sponsored nearly 80 bills involving juvenile justice reform, including behavioral health and mental health bills. Senator Lee says his goal was always to focus on restorative justice to help low-level offenders access reparative treatment programs instead of facing incarceration. This type of legislation has seen incredible success rates – in thousands of cases to date, 95 to 97 percent of juveniles succeed in restorative justice programs.
For his enduring dedication to the ACLU of Colorado, retired attorney Dan Recht was recognized with the Martha Radetsky Award for more than 30 years of exceptional service to our organization. Recht got involved with the ACLU in the 1980s when he was a public defender. During his volunteer time with our organization, he served on the Board of Directors for more than 20 years and was the chair of the board for four of those years. He also served on the ACLU’s legal panel for 20 years and was chair of the legal panel for 15 of those years.
Save the date for our next Toward Liberty celebration in September 2023.
You’ll get to meet new honorees doing exceptional work to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties for all Coloradans.