Mass Defense Program

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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 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 massdef@nlg.org.

kyr-english-cover-squareKnow 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 [654]

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 /  arrests@nlg-la.org

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


Black Friday 2015 LO svia Seattle MetOur 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

Donate to Mass Defense!


For further assistance, contact our Mass Defense leadership: massdef@nlg.org

You can also find NLG attorneys here who provide criminal representation for activists arrested during protests.