Mass Defense Program


NLG Legal Observer Blair Anderson at #FergusonOctober. (Photo: Cece 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 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 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 and hard copies are available to order at 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: Arrest line coming soon.
    • Contact with the Subject Line “Interested in Volunteering” for opportunities to support our mass protest defense work.
  • 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 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
    • 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

New Hampshire

  • Statewide NH: (802) 417-2173

New Jersey

  • Statewide NJ: (833) 336-5654 ext. 700

New York

  • Buffalo, NY: (716) 332-4658
  • New York City, NY: (212) 679-6018

North Carolina

  • Statewide NC: (919) 408-7569
  • Central 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: (Note: the following hotlines are operated by the Portland Mass Defense Hotline, which is not affiliated with the NLG.) 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) 680-1312.


  • 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

Washington, DC


  • Statewide VT: (802) 417-2173

Military Law Task Force

  • Call (619) 463-2369 or 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
  • 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

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