Aspen Historical Society
Anna Scott, Archivist
"Aspen in the late 1960s was a popular place to drop out and escape the Vietnam War draft and the conformity of America. Young artists, hippies, radicals, and outlaws arrived in late 1967 after the famous Summer of Love in San Francisco, abandoning the city to seek a new kind of refuge in the natural beauty surrounding Aspen.
Aspen had become fertile ground for the battle between conservatives and hippies because of an influx of intellectual, liberal, and unregistered voters who had moved there in the preceding years. Adding to the problem was the constant harassment of hippies though heavy handed local law enforcement. One defendant, a 15-year-old hitchhiking his way through town on his way to San Francisco, had been detained and sentenced to 90 days in jail in municipal Judge Guido Meyer's infamous magistrate courtroom. Meyer was notorious for his militant opposition to the influx of what he called "undesirables" into Aspen, often sentencing youth to ninety days for petty offenses.
When Joe Edwards, who had recently been licensed and who had never before tried a case in court, heard about the unrepresented youth languishing in the local jail, he brought the first civil rights case in Colorado to court by suing the Aspen Police Department, the City of Aspen, and local magistrates for harassing the hippies and violating their civil rights. At the hearing in federal court in Denver in 1968, the judge in the case castigated the police force and magistrates and threatened to issue an injunction if any more people were discriminated against, harassed, or unjustly imprisoned. Edwards became a hero overnight in Aspen for defending its burgeoning counterculture.
This sign reminds us of a time when there was unrest all over the country and even managed to come to a sleepy town in the mountains of Colorado. A time when a young generation was questioning and fighting against the establishment, and who ultimately helped shape the town of Aspen as it is today. You can find this and over 12,000 more objects and images on our on-line site."