Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment was founded in 1979 as Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety (WCES). The group was created after the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, to organize and encourage citizens to monitor the local environment. After the decision was made in 1987 to close the U.S. Army’s Watertown Arsenal, WCES was instrumental in getting the Arsenal onto the Federal Superfund Site. The organization then worked with the Army and both local and state health officials to ensure proper cleanup. Today, the Arsenal bustles with commercial, cultural, and artistic activities for Watertown residents and the general public.
In the early 1980s, WCES became Watertown’s nuclear freeze group. We established an annual commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima, and our activities expanded to include educational events, peace vigils, and legislative work. After the events of September 11, 2001, WCES became part of the Boston area United for Justice with Peace coalition. In 2005, our efforts resulted in the Patriot Act Resolution ballot question. This resolution, which called on federal lawmakers to oppose those portions of the Patriot Act that violated citizens’ civil rights, passed by a two-to-one margin among Watertown’s voters. In 2012, our legislative efforts resulted in the Budget For All Resolution ballot question, which instructed legislators to prevent social service cuts, create jobs, reduce military spending, and end the war in Afghanistan. This resolution was passed by 78% of Watertown voters. That same year, we successfully appealed to voters and the Town Council to register opposition to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
Watertown Citizens works to encourage healthy, environmentally friendly local practices. This includes sponsoring Chemical Free Garden Tours as well as the annual Charles River Cleanup, participating in the Watertown Wellness Task Force, advocating the national “Complete Streets” model for road projects, and discouraging excessive paving. Our members also tend a Watertown Citizens Community Garden plot, whose harvest is donated to the Watertown Food Pantry. In 2012-13, we initiated a public art project for the Community Path, and began generating input to the future Watertown Comprehensive Plan.
Prominent local agencies and organizations—the Watertown Recycling Center, the Watertown Environment and Energy Efficiency Committee (WE3C), Trees for Watertown, the Watertown Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, Watertown-El Tremedal Sister City Project, and Watertown Walks!—all began as projects of WCES. Recognizing the breadth and interconnection of our activities, in 2011 we changed our name to Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment.