Mass Defense Committee

The Mass Defense Committee (MDC) is a network of lawyers, legal workers, and law students providing legal support for political activists, protesters and movements for social change.

MDC members from across the country provide Know Your Rights trainings, Legal Observer trainings, assistance in setting up temporary legal offices and legal support structures, and materials for supporting activists engaged in mass protests and civil disobedience. Contact the Mass Defense leadership listed below to set up a training in your area.

RNC & DNC 2016: The NLG Ohio and Philadelphia Chapters are providing legal support for demonstrators at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions (press release), including: Legal Observers, jail support, and helping connecting arrestees with volunteer attorneys. Learn more below:

Ohio Chapter of the NLG (RNC in Cleveland July 18-July 21)

Philadelphia Chapter of the NLG (DNC from July 25-July 28):

Members of the press seeking legal help during RNC/DNC, should contact the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press legal hotlines (learn more:

  • RNC Legal Hotline for Press: 216-861-7694
  • DNC Legal Hotline for Press: 215-988-9782

Know Your Rights booklets are available for free PDF download in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengal, and Urdu. You may request hard copy booklets by contacting

NLG reports on the state response to mass demonstrations, include The Assault on Free Speech, Public Assembly, and Dissent (2004), Punishing Protest (2007), and The Policing of Political Speech (2010), Developments in the Policing of National Special Security Events: An Analysis of the 2012 RNC and DNC (2013), and Operation Backfire (2009), which details how environmental and animal rights activists are targeted by the government as a top domestic terrorist threat.

Some local NLG chapters operate Legal Support Hotlines, often in collaboration with other local groups.  If you're planning an action with a high risk of arrest or you've been arrested at a political demonstration, you can call legal support hotlines in the following areas:

  • Atlanta, GA 678-902-JAIL (5245)
  • San Francisco/Bay Area, CA 415-285-1011
  • New York City, NY 212-679-6018;
  • Portland, OR 503-902-5340;
  • Chicago, IL 312-913-0039 x0.
  • Louisiana 225-341-2287.

For further assistance, contact Director of Mass Defense: King Downing

IMPORTANT: The Mass Defense Coordinator position is funded with a matching grant from the CS Fund and relies on contributions from NLG members. So that we can sustain this position, please donate to the MDC today!

You may also find some NLG attorneys here who provide criminal representation for activists arrested during mass protests. For NLG attorneys in other areas of the country, or to find a legal collective near you, please contact the Director of Mass Defense.

The MDC listserv is a great way to learn from and work with NLG mass defense practitioners around the country. To subscribe to the list, you must be an NLG member. If you'd like to become a member, you can sign up here. NLG members can join the MDC listserv here.