Mass Defense Program


NLG Legal Observer Blair Anderson at #FergusonOctober. (Photo: Curtis McGuire)

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.

kyr-english-cover-squareMDC Know Your Rights booklets are available for widespread use in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengal, and Urdu. Booklets can also be ordered from the NLG National Office.

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, which details how environmental and animal rights activists are targeted by the government as a top domestic terrorist threat. For additional analysis on contemporary movements and state repression, visit the NLG Blog.

NLG Legal Support Hotlines

Some local NLG chapters operate Legal Support Hotlines. 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:

Buffalo, NY716-332-4658

Central Pennsylvania717-686-9989

Chicago, IL: 312-913-0039

Cleveland, OH: 216.5050.NLG (654)

Georgia: 678-902-JAIL

Idaho: 208-991-4324

Los Angeles, CA310-313-3700

Madison, WI608-520-0654




New York City212-679-6018

Portland, OR503-902-5340

San Francisco/Bay Area, CA415-285-1011

Seattle, WA206-422-4663


If you don’t see your area listed, contact King Downing, Director of Mass Defense at

Black Friday 2015 LO svia Seattle MetOur Mass Defense work and Director position are 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 Mass Defense Program today!

Your donation will be used to help:

  • Train Legal Observers to monitor police at protests
  • Fund our Mass Defense Director position
  • Expand our outreach to people of color, Muslim and immigrant communities
  • Provide Know Your Rights bookets and trainings
  • Enhance NLG Litigation Support

Donate to Mass Defense!

For further assistance, contact our Mass Defense leadership:

Director of Mass Defense: King Downing

Mass Defense Committee Chair: Jude Ortiz

You can 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 NLG Mass Defense Director.