The Mass Defense Committee (MDC) of the New York City chapter of the NLG was created in the spring of 1968 in response to Vietnam war protests and arrests at Columbia University.

From 2004 to the present, the MDC has provided Legal Observers during the monthly Critical Mass bike rides in Manhattan. After two years of monthly arrests, and vigorous legal defense of those arrested, the NYPD gave up mass arrests of bikers, and began ticketing riders instead. Legal Observer and Guild attorney Gideon Oliver has played an instrumental role in this process representing hundreds of arrestees, and secured a court decision finding that NYC’s Parade Permitting scheme is unconstitutional. The MDC provided nearly 70 Legal Observers for the April 10, 2006, Immigration March and Rally that lined Broadway from Grand Street to City Hall.

In 2004, the MDC provided legal support for the protests at the Republican National Convention. Six hundred volunteer attorneys and legal observers achieved approximately a 90% dismissal rate in criminal cases against individuals arrested during the 2004 RNC. The dismissal of these criminal cases strengthened the arrestees’ civil cases against the city over the NYPD’s plan to mass-arrest protesters and bystanders, and over the arrestee’s prolonged and hazardous detention at Pier 57.

For over 35 years the MDC has provided legal observers at hundreds of demonstrations and appeared in court for thousands arrested as they marched and rallied for civil rights and reproductive rights or against police misconduct or the war against Iraq.

The MDC frequently holds observer training sessions at area law schools. If you wish to volunteer as a legal observer, or can be available to represent arrested protestors, contact nlgnyc at


If you would like to speak to a lawyer regarding obtaining a permit or other demonstration matters, please call the office at 212-679-6018. NO EMAILS PLEASE. The Mass Defense Committee will do its best to give legal information, however, not every request may be able to be filled.