Media Contact

Lynette Kalsnes,, 612-270-8531

July 14, 2020

At a time when police violence is front and center and protesters are taking to the streets to demand justice and equity for Black lives, the ACLU-MN is expanding its popular annual awards program to recognize more of the heroes who fight to protect and advance civil liberties.

The ACLU-MN will host the 2020 Liberty Awards at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 16. The event honors Minnesotans who have advanced civil liberties, even at personal or professional risk.

“The response to the murder of George Floyd reinforces the fact that change is driven on the community level,” said ACLU-MN Development Director Judy Hawkinson. “We’re excited to honor people who are deeply committed to that work.”

Gospel legend and radio personality Jearlyn Steele will emcee the virtual program, which includes remarks from award winners Valerie Castile, Amy Koopman, Kim Hunter and the Nobles County Public Defenders. The Liberty Awards will stream live on Facebook and YouTube.

The Room & Board Torchbearer Award, which will be given for the first time, was created to honor individuals working in their communities to advance civil liberties. This first-ever award will recognize Minnesotans fighting to end police violence: Valerie Castile and Amy Koopman.

  • Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, will accept the award on behalf of her family. After her son was killed by police, Valerie founded the Philando Castile Relief Foundation and worked with the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution to prevent police killings and support victims of police violence.
  • Amy Koopman livestreamed a tense encounter between Robbinsdale police and two Black men. Amy was charged with obstruction, and the ACLU later won a dismissal in the case. Amy works with us to change policing practices – and she still records police encounters.

“At Room & Board, we believe in inclusion and that we’re stronger when we work together to encourage equal freedoms for all. Supporting the ACLU is a natural extension of this belief,” said Nancy Greatrix Manley, Director of Human Resources for Room & Board, which is the presenting sponsor for the Torchbearer Award. “Especially in this time of crisis, we all need to step up to protect individual liberties. It's more important than ever to support the work of the ACLU.”

The ACLU-MN will also present two other awards. The Ron DeHarpporte Changemaker Award, for groups that have worked with the ACLU-MN to advance civil liberties, will be given to the Nobles County Public Defenders. The John & Maggie Miller Earl Larson Award, honoring a member of the legal field who has fought for civil liberties throughout their career, will be given to Kim Hunter.

  • The Nobles County Public Defenders office office has assisted us in lawsuits against the Nobles County Sheriff and the Worthington Police Department. They have fought police violence and protected immigrant rights in Nobles County by keeping us aware of detention violations and alerting us to cases across southern Minnesota.
  • Kim Hunter is an immigration lawyer in the Twin Cities who has worked to stop the deportation of Somali refugees and fought the unlawful denial of citizenship, laying the groundwork for dozens of her clients to reopen their cases and even become citizens. Her work challenging unlawful immigration detention has led to changes in legal precedent.