Mass Defense Committee Update

The past few months have been an amazing time for social justice movements and our Mass Defense Committee has been working overtime to provide needed legal support for activists.

We first want to acknowledge the high school, college and university students who are on the front lines. All across our state, as well as the rest of the country, student human rights and anti-war activists have been putting their bodies and their educational future on the line to try to stop an ongoing massacre of civilians and the destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza. These students are bringing to light the role of U.S. tax dollars, and the investments of their own universities, as major sources of funding for the weapons being used in this war against the Palestinian people. Many are also highlighting that their own universities are funding or developing the tech that results in the bombs and other weapons that have been used to destroy the universities, hospitals, and water resources in Gaza. The vitriolic response by American colleges and universities to these protests has been astounding, with students being attacked, beaten, arrested, suspended, and banned from campuses. Meanwhile, the protests themselves have been overwhelmingly peaceful.

We also owe a massive thank you to our trained Legal Observers™ who have been consistently monitoring protests and demonstrations over the last several months. We have had a presence at all the encampments across the state, on a near continuous basis. Many new volunteers have stepped forward to become trained Legal Observers, and our student NLG chapters have been providing much of the staffing for the MDC hotline as well as documenting police misconduct at the protests. At several encampments there have been days of literally around the clock Legal Observer coverage as the universities threaten and target student activists. Our Legal Observer teams have been present at every major raid on the encampments, and have also been active at numerous marches, rallies, and other direct action protests. If you are interested in joining the Legal Observer program, please reach out to the NLG office (617-227-7335 or email to and we can connect you to a training. You can help play a vital role in our efforts to keep people safe in the streets.

In addition to our Legal Observer program, we have been able to quickly respond to the numerous requests for trainings that we have been receiving from activists and organizers, from Know Your Rights to Legal Self Defense to Direct Action workshops.  These trainings and workshops have provided invaluable legal guidance to protestors as to how to best protect themselves against the repressive reactions being taken by colleges, universities, and law enforcement against them.

In the last 20 days alone, there have been over 350 arrests in the police raids at Emerson College, Northeastern University, UMass Amherst, and MIT. The students have self-organized jail and bail support and collaborated with the Mass Bail Fund and our Mass Defense Committee in creating crucial support networks and making sure that everyone was bailed out.

We have relied on a team of over 25 volunteer lawyers to represent arrested demonstrators in the courts across the state. So far, the vast majority of people who have been arrested are mainly accused of misdemeanor charges like trespass, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and failure to disperse. Our volunteer attorneys have been able to get dispositions for that will result in the charges being dismissed (usually upon completion of some community service), even sometimes before the charges are officially issued by the court. Some people have faced more serious charges, and the MDC has been able to procure individual lawyers to represent them to fight those often overblown charges.  We also have an intake process to document the injuries that some people have received during the police attacks on their protests.

Many students are also facing severe sanctions from their colleges or universities. Our broad NLG network has stepped up to assist those students in fighting against unwarranted suspensions, evictions from university housing, loss of graduate student jobs, and other sanctions, often imposed without any sort of hearing. As part of addressing the campus-based risks that students are facing for their activism, we have trained faculty to function as advisors to students in school disciplinary hearings, provided immigration lawyers to international students, and pushed back on the university’s attempts to illegally evict suspended students from campus housing.

Along with supporting those working to stop the war on Gaza and Palestinians, we continue to work with other social justice campaigns, including support for climate justice activists and people campaigning for a Free Tibet. We hope that you will join us in this vital work by volunteering for, or providing financial support for, our Mass Defense Committee and Legal Observer program.  Thanks to everyone who already has volunteered, and if you can join in these efforts, the activists and movements that we support would be most grateful!