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 in chapters across the country provide trainings, assistance in setting up temporary legal offices and legal support structures, and materials for supporting activists engaged in mass protests.
Mass Defense Support
The National Lawyers Guild can provide the following legal help to progressive organizations:
- “Know your rights” trainings/workshops;
- Meetings with, and advice to, organizers about protest actions, and legal consequences;
- Legal Observers® at protests and other actions;
- Help with setting up and running jail and bail support programs;
- Legal representation in case of protest arrests.
If interested, please go to nlg.org/chapters and find the NLG chapter nearest you. If the chapter has a website listed, click on the link and look for “Request Legal Observers®” or “Mass Defense” and the local chapter will respond based on capacity. If no website is listed, please email the listed chapter person and CC firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know Your Rights booklets are available online for in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, and Urdu. PDFs of these booklets are available for free download. Printed booklets (in English, Spanish, Arabic) can be obtained by going to nlg.org/kyrbooklets.
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, on how the government targets environmental and animal rights activists as domestic terrorist threats. For more on 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, contact your local NLG chapter ahead of time if you’d like to request Legal Observers® or other forms of demonstration support. If you’ve been arrested at a political demonstration, you can call legal support hotlines in the following areas (it’s a good idea to write the number on your body ahead of the demonstration). NOTE: These hotlines are staffed by volunteers, and operate at the request of community members.
Buffalo, NY: (716) 332-4658
Central Pennsylvania: (717) 686-9989
Chicago, IL: (312) 913-0039
Cleveland, OH: (216) 5050-NLG 
Eugene, OR: (541) 687-9180, run by the Civil Liberties Defense Center
Georgia: (678) 902-JAIL
Idaho: (208) 991-4324
Los Angeles, CA: (310) 313-3700 / email@example.com
Madison, WI: (608) 520-0654
Massachusetts: (617) 431-6626
Minnesota: (612) 444-2654
New York City: (212) 679-6018
Pittsburgh, PA: (412) 212-6753
Portland, OR: (503) 902-5340
Sacramento, CA: (916) 996-9170
San Francisco/Bay Area, CA: Demo Public Line – (415) 909-4NLG; Demo Jail Line – (415) 285-1011
Our Mass Defense work is funded by a matching grant from the CS Fund and relies on contributions from NLG members and supporters. So that we can sustain this critical work, 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 booklets and trainings
- Enhance NLG Litigation Support
For further assistance, contact our Mass Defense leadership: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find NLG attorneys here who provide criminal representation for activists arrested during protests.