NATO Legal Support

As persistent advocates of movements for social change, the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago (NLG Chicago) understands that movements must have legal support to advance their cause. Thus, NLG Chicago’s Mass Defense Committee (MDC) has launched the NATO Legal Support Project, a program of public education, legal assistance, and support for persons seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights of speech, expression, and assembly surrounding the NATO summit.

From Adbusters’ call for 50,000 protestors to descend on Chicago, to the actions surrounding the  NATO Summit, to the ongoing activities of the Occupy Chicago movement, this Spring will see Chicago become the virtual epicenter of mass political demonstration and protest in North America.  And, the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago will be on the streets and in the courts to protect the rights of protestors.

While the G8 summit was relocated to Camp David, there remains every indication that the NATO summit is going to involve mass demonstrations . . . and mass arrests.  Numerous local organizations are continuing with plans for counter-summits and mass protests, and reportedly thousands of protestors are still planning to come to Chicago this May.  At the forefront of anticipated mass demonstrations are issues surrounding economic equality, social justice, and advancing the cause of peace.

Despite this, a message of fear and danger has been created surrounding summit protests, producing a chilling effect on people wishing to engage in First Amendment protected activity.  In Chicago we’ve seen this with anticipated patrols downtown by the Federal Protective Service in full “battle dress,” with tenants and workers are being told to stay away from downtown during protests, and with arrest-focused preparation plans.

This climate is further complicated by the designation of the NATO summit as a National Special Security Event (NSSE).  Over the past decade, hallmarks of NSSEs have been widespread police actions aimed at diffusing or stopping dissent including preemptive raids, utilization of aggressive crowd-controlling tactics, confiscation of journalists’ materials, unlawful containment of crowds, and mass arrests without probable cause.

The Mass Defense Committee of the NLG Chicago stands in solidarity with all peoples’ movements and supports a vibrant sphere of free speech and discussion.  The MDC’s work is undertaken in the spirit of the National Lawyers Guild’s 75-year history of dedication to fundamental social change, equal justice, and belief that human rights are more sacred than property interests.

In this vein, the Mass Defense Committee seeks to provide a range of legal support in defense of NATO protestors:

  • conducting specialized “know-your-rights” workshops;
  • organizing and training volunteer Legal Observers™ to assist the public to exercise their rights to freedom of speech, expression, and assembly;
  • monitoring law enforcement activity for possible misconduct;
  • staffing a dedicated legal office with a 24/7 emergency hotline; and
  • providing legal representation to people arrested in the exercise of their First Amendment rights.

If you are a law student, legal worker, or lawyer who would like to volunteer to help, please contact us at chicago at

If you are in Chicago to help provide legal support and need alternative housing, please contact Sandra Tsung at

We need your support to keep our legal support office running, keep the lights on, and keep the hotlines open.  No amount is too small.  Please help us today!