Amnesty International USA is holding its 51st annual meeting in Denver this weekend, when a thousand activists will gather for a call to action to think globally and act locally. Colorado's the perfect spot for that: Amnesty International's Urgent Action Network for the U.S. was based here for more than two decades.
And not just in Colorado, but in the isolated and definitely active mountain town of Nederland -- which was a lot more isolated back in 1983, when Ellen Moore and Scott Harrison moved the Urgent Action Network for the entire United States there from San Francisco. That was before human rights became "so in," Moore remembers, and definitely before the Internet provided such a useful tool for sending out urgent notices -- and archiving stories, such as the interviews Westword has done with Amnesty International over the years.
Our most recent -- and archived -- story on AI's Nederland office was in the fall of 2001, as efforts accelerated in the wake of 9/11. Amnesty's crisis team was meeting twice a day in Washington, D.C., sharing information, reviewing the news and determining "how Amnesty can play a role, even though the U.S. government is having trouble figuring out what its role is," Moore said at the time. "We have spent a lot of time looking at the humanitarian concerns -- not taking a political stand, but looking at the mistreatment, particularly of women, children and the elderly, both where the bombings happen and where the refugees are heading."
And from their perch in Nederland, Moore and Harrison kept an eye on the rest of the world. "It's always our role to get out the most timely information to people who have promised to take action," said Moore, "either by writing the country, the ambassador, or members of Congress."
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When they started out in Nederland, they were doing their work by phones and sending out those letters by snail mail -- and the postmarks from a town best-known around the world as the home of Frozen Dead Guy Days must have surprised some clerks. But by the time the office, by then one of dozens around the globe, closed here a half-dozen years ago, it was completely up to speed technologically, and alerts could go out in seconds.
Moore will be at this weekend's gathering, which has "so rich a mix of great speakers, I am almost dumb-founded," she says.
But their work in Nederland was an important part of that rich mix.
What other Colorado spots should be celebrated? See our slide show "Governor Hickenlooper's Colorado bucket list."