“Cop City” Lesson Plan

Duration: 1 hour
Season 3, Episode 2

The Hot Seat

featuring ecologist and "Cop City" activist Jacqueline Echols

Learning objectives:

  • Understand how the construction of a massive police training center impacts on human health both physical and mental, with which the majority- Black community is already disproportionately affected.
  • Identify who is backing “Cop City”.
  • Understand what organizing against “Cop City” looks like, including demonstrations, environmental analysis, and research aimed at city officials.
  • Understand the link between environmental justice and racial justice.

Tune in to the latest episode, The Hot Seat, to find out.

In episode 2: the Hot Seat, we hear from Jacqueline Echols about what’s happening in Atlanta where the South River Forest - one of the four “city lungs” - is under attack. Advocates and residents are rallying against a massive police training facility set for development on nearly 85 acres of beloved green space. Dr. Echols is an environmental justice advocate for 25 years and board president of the South River Watershed Alliance, an organization working to protect the river and adjacent forest ecosystem. Her more than two decades of work to improve water quality in Atlanta’s waterways and protect the city’s tree canopy earned her the 2017 Environmental Hero Award.

The forest in Southeast Atlanta is home to wetlands that filter rainwater, prevent flooding, and help the city stay resilient in the face of climate change. As Jacqueline impassionately shares, the proposed $90 million dollar training facility dubbed “Cop City” has sparked outrage from community members, where local officials are offering a red carpet layout under the pretext of preventing crime. The closest neighborhood to the forest is 77 percent Black and still reeling from ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Its residents will feel the immediate impacts of police presence and the loss of park space for generations to come.

Sample Assignment #1


  1. Listen to the podcast episode  "The Hot Seat" (Season 3, Episode 2) featuring featuring ecologist and "Cop City" activist Jacqueline Echols
  2. Read these background resources to understand the underlying issues:
  3. Write a 2-page reflection on the podcast episode addressing the questions under “Sample Assignment.”

Sample Assignment #2

Discussion Questions for S1 E2 “If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu” 

  • What was the environmental problem discussed in this episode? 
  • Who is affected by this problem? 
  • Why does this problem matter? 
  • How did this problem come to happen? 
  • What are the policies and legal forces at play and/or underlying this problem?
  • What solution does the storyteller want? What are their demands? Who are the potential decision-makers who could grant those demands?
  • What societal assumptions does the podcast episode raise from you? How did the stories in this episode change or challenge those assumptions? 
  • What are the opportunities for lawyers to play a role in this solution? Name at least 1 legal framework that would support the impacted community’s defense. 
  • What other inquiries would you make if you were trying to support this impacted community as a lawyer? 
  • What are three ways that environmental justice might become an analytic frame or lens through which to explore subsequent course material or case work?
  • What are three main learnings that you are taking away from this episode or our discussion? 
© People over Plastic 2023
© People over Plastic 2023