NLG Ohio and Philadelphia Chapters Organize Legal Support ahead of RNC and DNC


July 14, 2016


NEW YORK—The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is gearing up to support our Ohio and Philadelphia chapters as they prepare for anticipated mass protests—and arrests—at the upcoming Republican and Democratic National Conventions (RNC, DNC) to be held in Cleveland, July 18-21 and Philadelphia, July 25-28, 2016.

This convention season has witnessed excessive federal expenditures on security, increased “free speech” restrictions, and backlash against the growing Movement for Black Lives.  NLG Ohio and NLG Philadelphia are each preparing an organized mass defense infrastructure of Legal Observers, jail support, and lawyers.

Legal Observers, popularly known as “Green Hats,” monitor protests and document police misconduct at the request of local organizers. Jail support volunteers track arrestees through the criminal legal system, and support organizing and solidarity efforts for folks inside. The Guild also helps to recruit volunteer criminal and civil lawyers to provide legal representation for cases arising out of protests.

NLG Ohio, in preparing for the RNC in Cleveland July 18-July 21:

  • Pressed the city to reveal security purchases under the $50 million federal grant
  • Set up legal observer, jail support, and lawyer pool infrastructures and held trainings
  • Wrote to federal state and local law enforcement officials, with the NAACP, about FBI/police suspicionless “door knocking visits” of people with histories of activism, and followed up with a special Know Your Rights training

NLG Philadelphia, in preparing for the DNC from July 25-July 28:

  • Organized legal observers and held trainings, including outreach to law students
  • Partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union, to litigate march permits
  • Partnered with the Up Against the Law legal collective to provide jail support and arrest representation

Both NLG chapters have broad experience in mass defense. The Ohio Chapter most recently went into action following the acquittal of a Cleveland police officer charged with fatally shooting unarmed Black residents in 2012. The Philadelphia Chapter first experienced organizing legal support for a national political convention during the RNC in 2000, in the midst of mass arrests, police brutality, misconduct, and political repression. “The NLG Ohio and Philly Chapters have been fighting since well before the convention to open the streets and push back surveillance, and they will be in the streets and the courts during and after the conventions,” said King Downing, the NLG Director of Mass Defense.

Learn more about getting involved at the websites and resources below, as well as the NLG Mass Defense Committee page:

Ohio Chapter of the NLG

Philadelphia Chapter of the NLG

NLG Know Your Rights Booklets in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, and Urdu:

The NLG Mass Defense Committee was formed in 1968 in response to the wave of protests during that tumultuous time. To support the NLG Mass Defense Fund and the right to protest, please donate at

The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.

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