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 and hard copies are available to order at 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’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 in permanent marker ahead of the demonstration). NOTE: These hotlines are staffed by volunteers, and operate at the request of community members.
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.
- Southern Arizona: (520) 477-2654
- Los Angeles, CA: (310) 313-3700
- Sacramento, CA: (916) 500-4654
- San Francisco/Bay Area, CA:
- Demo Public Line – (415) 909-4NLG (415-909-4654)
- Demo Jail Line – (415) 285-1011
- Statewide CT: (203) 896-7221
- for reporting arrests and police violence, providing jail support, and connecting people to resources for bond. Connecticut chapter is not providing legal advice or connecting people to defense attorneys at this time.
- Statewide CO: (720) 822-5893
- Statewide GA: (678) 902-JAIL (678-902-5245)
- Statewide ID: (208) 991-4324
- Chicago, IL:
- If you or someone you know has been arrested and needs a lawyer to visit them in police custody, contact the Cook County Public Defender at (844) 817-4448.
- If you or someone you know has been criminally charged and needs legal representation in court, call the NLG-Chicago at (773) 309-1198.
- If you’re organizing an action and would like to request NLG Legal Observers, contact us at email@example.com.
- If you’re a licensed attorney in the state of IL and would like to volunteer with the chapter, please fill out this volunteer attorney form.
- Statewide LA: (504) 290-3535
- Statewide MA: (617) 431-6626
- Detroit, MI: (313) 925-2626
- Statewide MN: (612) 444-2654
- St. Louis, MO: (314) 312-0836
- Statewide NH: (802) 417-2173
- Statewide NJ: (833) 336-5654 ext. 700
- Buffalo, NY: (716) 332-4658
- New York City, NY: (212) 679-6018
- Statewide NC: (919) 408-7569
- Statewide OH: (614) NLG-OH77 (614-654-6477)
- Eugene, OR: (541) 687-9180, operated by the Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Portland, OR: If you were arrested and are IN JAIL: (971) 247-1072 / Non-jail line for when you are out of police custody, to report that your friend has been arrested, or if you witness or experience state violence: (833) 680-1312If you have video, photos or other digital media displaying police violence/violence by white supremacists during or surrounding the protests, please send an e-mail to NLGPDX@protonmail.com with just your name and contact information. We will then be in touch with next steps.
- Central Pennsylvania: (717) 686-9989
- Pittsburgh, PA: (412) 212-6753
- Austin, TX: (512) 817-4254
- Houston, TX: (832) 779-1263
- Seattle, WA: (206) 658-7963
- Madison, WI: (608) 520-0654
- District-wide DC: (202) 888-1731, operated by Law for Black Lives
- Statewide VT: (802) 417-2173
- Call (619) 463-2369 or firstname.lastname@example.org for referral to a lawyer for questions about resisting activation, about illegal orders, speaking out, or other issues where an attorney’s advice is helpful. General counseling information is available from the GI Rights Hotline (877) 447-4487.
Federal Repression Hotlines
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
- National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811
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 Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find NLG attorneys here who provide criminal representation for activists arrested during protests.