“Thank you NLG, writing your number on my arm in marker feels like putting on a piece of armor.”
– Chris Edwards, Activist, San Francisco

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NLG-SFBA | Committees

Demonstrations Committee

The mission of the National Lawyers Guild is “to use law for the people, uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests.”

To this end, the work of the Demonstrations Committee seeks to extend this to community members and organizers of progressive groups who oppose imperialism, racism, xenophobia, fascism, sexism, class exploitation and oppression, ableism, heteropatriarchy and transphobia. Within our capacity, the NLG-SF Demonstrations Committee endeavors to provide legal support, including Legal Observers, a hotline and/or legal representation for any progressive demonstration or action consistent with these principles, and anyone who is arrested for participation in any action or demonstration or is politically targeted for prosecution, when a request for our assistance has been made.

Since we do not have attorney staff, our legal support system may involve representation by the Public Defender, court appointed attorneys, and/or NLG member attorneys who are volunteering free or reduced rate services. On occasion we also try to respond to broad-scale police misconduct but do not presently have attorney staff to take on litigation.

The Demonstrations Committee meets every Thursday night at 6:30pm. Please contact our Demonstrations Coordinator below if you are a member who would like to be involved with this committee.

Quick Links

Useful Information

Legal observers play a crucial role monitoring law enforcement at demonstrations.  Legal observers collect information on arrests and information that may be used in criminal defense of activists or in advocacy against police and government misconduct and repression. Legal observers ensure that the police know that they are being watched.  In addition to providing legal observers during an action, NLGSF can also train members of your activist community to serve as Legal Observers.

Experienced NLGSF attorneys and legal workers can present information about the legal risks of demonstrations and civil disobedience, what your rights are during protests, what to do if you are arrested, and walk you through the court process.  We can also provide Know Your Rights trainings that focus on the basic legal information you need when interacting with the police and other government agents. Know Your Rights trainings are conducted in an interactive way, designed to allow participants to explore their options in realistic settings.

NLGSF can usually arrange for attorneys to visit arrestees in jail and assist with jail release procedures in the event arrestees are held in custody. We can also usually recruit attorneys to cover initial court dates, and often, to provide representation throughout any criminal cases. We try to find attorneys to meet with and defend arrestees on a pro bono or low bono basis and also coordinate with sympathetic public defenders and court appointed lawyers. It is essential that we receive a complete list of arrestees and we count on organizers to help compile this. The NLG does NOT provide bail.  Contact our friends at the Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee if you need bail support.

Requesting Legal Support

If you would like to request legal support for your upcoming demonstration and direct action, please read “Working With the NLG to Plan Legal Support for Demonstrations” and, if possible, submit the legal support request form at least one week prior to the date of the demonstration. This document tells you what we need from you in order to try to meet the legal needs arising from your demo.

If you would like to request legal support for your upcoming demonstration and direct action, please read “Working With the NLG to Plan Legal Support for Demonstrations” and, if possible, submit the legal support request form at least one week prior to the date of the demonstration. This document tells you what we need from you in order to try to meet the legal needs arising from your demo.

To learn more about the legal support available and to volunteer see our legal support page. 

The volunteers of the Demonstrations Committee stand against political repression and act in solidarity with all those who challenge the state, capitalism and other forms of systemic oppression and domination, regardless of tactics. We work both internally and externally to dismantle oppressive tendencies and work within an abolitionist framework. The NLG-SF believes that policing, prisons and the whole legal system is inherently white supremacist, patriarchal, exploitative and violent. We see movement legal support as harm-reduction work. The Demonstrations Committee is not a legal services agency, and we cannot always meet all legal support needs. We prioritize those organizing for their own communities’ liberation, those in frontline impacted communities, and those most targeted by the state.

Useful Information

Legal observers play a crucial role monitoring law enforcement at demonstrations.  Legal observers collect information on arrests and information that may be used in criminal defense of activists or in advocacy against police and government misconduct and repression. Legal observers ensure that the police know that they are being watched.  In addition to providing legal observers during an action, NLGSF can also train members of your activist community to serve as Legal Observers.

Experienced NLGSF attorneys and legal workers can present information about the legal risks of demonstrations and civil disobedience, what your rights are during protests, what to do if you are arrested, and walk you through the court process.  We can also provide Know Your Rights trainings that focus on the basic legal information you need when interacting with the police and other government agents. Know Your Rights trainings are conducted in an interactive way, designed to allow participants to explore their options in realistic settings.

NLGSF can usually arrange for attorneys to visit arrestees in jail and assist with jail release procedures in the event arrestees are held in custody. We can also usually recruit attorneys to cover initial court dates, and often, to provide representation throughout any criminal cases. We try to find attorneys to meet with and defend arrestees on a pro bono or low bono basis and also coordinate with sympathetic public defenders and court appointed lawyers. It is essential that we receive a complete list of arrestees and we count on organizers to help compile this. The NLG does NOT provide bail.  Contact our friends at the Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee if you need bail support.

Requesting Legal Support

If you would like to request legal support for your upcoming demonstration and direct action, please read “Working With the NLG to Plan Legal Support for Demonstrations” and, if possible, submit the legal support request form at least one week prior to the date of the demonstration. This document tells you what we need from you in order to try to meet the legal needs arising from your demo.

If you would like to request legal support for your upcoming demonstration and direct action, please read “Working With the NLG to Plan Legal Support for Demonstrations” and, if possible, submit the legal support request form at least one week prior to the date of the demonstration. This document tells you what we need from you in order to try to meet the legal needs arising from your demo.