Mass Defense Committee

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 from across the country provide trainings and materials, legal observers, legal representation and other movement support for activists engaged in mass protests and civil disobedience. Trainings include Know Your Rights, and Legal Observer workshops. Other assistance includes setting up temporary legal offices and legal support structures. Contact the Mass Defense leadership listed below to set up a training in your area.

Know Your Rights booklets are available for free PDF download in EnglishSpanishArabicBengal, and Urdu. You may request hard copy booklets by contacting

NLG 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 (2009), which details how environmental and animal rights activists are targeted by the government as a top domestic terrorist threat.

Some local NLG chapters operate Legal Support Hotlines, often in collaboration with other local groups.  If you're planning an action with a risk of arrest or if you've recently been arrested at a political demonstration, you can call legal support hotlines in the following areas:

  • Atlanta, GA 678-902-JAIL (5245)
  • Chicago, IL 312-913-0039 x0
  • Cleveland OH (216) 5050-NLG (654)
  • Louisiana 225-341-2287
  • Philadelphia PA (484) 758-0388
  • New York City, NY 212-679-6018
  • Portland, OR 503-902-5340
  • San Francisco/Bay Area CA 415-285-1011

For further assistance or contacts for other areas, contact Director of Mass Defense King Downing

IMPORTANT: Our Mass Defense work is funded with a matching grant from the CS Fund and relies on contributions from NLG members. So that we can sustain this critical work, please donate to the MDC today!

You may also find NLG attorneys here who provide criminal representation for activists arrested during mass protests. For NLG attorneys in other areas of the country, or to find a legal collective near you, please contact the Director of Mass Defense.

The MDC listserv is a great way to learn from and work with NLG mass defense practitioners around the country. To subscribe to the list, you must be an NLG member. If you'd like to become a member, you can sign up here. NLG members can join the MDC listserv here.