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Celebrating a Historic Moment in Disarmament: The Crucial Role of Activism and Collaboration

RICHMOND, Ky. – As of July 11, 2023, in an extraordinary stride towards a safer world, the last of the United States’ once-vast chemical weapons arsenal has been eliminated, marking a watershed moment in global disarmament history. While this journey has been decades in the making, it highlights the power of community advocacy and steadfast commitment to environmental safety.

The final chemical weapons were stored in military compounds, including the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky. Their safe and methodical destruction is largely attributed to relentless activism, with community leaders like Craig Williams and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF), a node in the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), leading the charge.

Williams and KEF were featured in a recent New York Times article about the final destruction of the United States’ supply of chemical weapons.

When Williams discovered the nearby storage of these deadly weapons in 1984, he began a tireless campaign for their safe elimination. KEF formed the Chemical Weapons Working Group in 1991 a coalition of Madison County residents, to engage in grassroots organizing, policy development and advocacy to mandate legislation to develop safer disposal methods. Through a collaborative effort with KEF and LiKEN, Williams and other members of the community worked towards creating a safer community, a goal achieved through dedicated  advocacy, education, and commitment to alternative, safe disposal technologies.

KEF director Craig Williams walks with Martin Luther King III in an anti-incineration march in Anniston, Alabama (2002). A large crowd of people surround them holding signs and flags demanding environmental justics and chemical disarmament through safe means.

KEF director Craig Williams walks with Martin Luther King III in an anti-incineration march in Anniston, Alabama (2002).

Local and international partnerships throughout the process ensured transparency and community involvement, offering a blueprint for effective community action and environmental safety.

We applaud the efforts of Craig Williams, KEF’s Chemical Weapons Working Group, and all the activists who contributed to this historic achievement.

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