Four years ago Chris Wahmhoff did what all seasoned activists do without even realizing it — he decided to tend after his own garden, look after his own home and develop himself as an individual first and foremost. Little did he realize that his personal journey of self-growth would translate into a new hunger for contributing to his community.
Weighing some 465 pounds, Chris worked hard to successfully lose 200 pounds in one year. The healthier he became, the better he felt, the more he wanted to extend that feeling outward to those around him, to his friends and family and to his larger community.
At the same time, the Kalamazoo River had just suffered, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the largest on-land spill in American history to date. The better Wahmhoff felt, the more he watched his community destroyed, watched the people around him grow sick and even die, having suffered no previous major illnesses prior to the spill. In less than a couple years they were gone. As a result, many in the community have been concentrating both their energy and attention on Enbridge Inc.
By the time Wahmhoff found his footing from losing the weight, Occupy Wall St. sprang up in September of 2011, energizing communities across the globe to take their lives and government into their own hands and wrestle back the power from the hydra of oligarchies that had risen larger and stronger than ever across the great financial markets of the world. Never having considered himself an activist (basketball being a main interest until then) the Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River and his newfound exuberance for health compelled Wahmhoff to join those in his community stepping forward for change.
Even before the dastardly LIBOR scandal had come to light, Occupy Kalamazoo stood and marched like so many other communities acting in solidarity and of their own accord across the nation. Wahmhoff remains a devoted member of that fine collective, working, organizing and risking his neck with a handful of others on the behalf of Kalamazoo’s homeless, mentally ill, the outright marginalized citizens for whatever reason(s) and those facing foreclosure of their homes — you name it; Occupy Kalamazoo was there, contributing to the people, the community, and the environment. Everything was up for vote and discussion. Still is.
In the spring of 2012, Wahmhoff accomplished his greatest act of civil disobedience yet. Following in the footsteps of Tim DeChristopher, Wahmhoff attended a land auction in Lansing, Mich. on May 8th, where he posed as a bidder and falsely purchased the mineral rights to 160 acres of Michigan land. Without realizing Wahmhoff had no intention of paying for the purchase, the auction passed and eventually became null and void, thereby postponing the sale and (if temporarily) saving the land from oil and gas exploitation.
That same summer, the United States Department of Transportation fined Enbridge $3.7 million dollars as a result of the 2010 spill. They listed 22 probable violations relating to the disaster. In addition, Enbridge never informed the EPA of the product distinction between crude oil and dilbit. Unlike crude oil, dilbit floats briefly in water but then sinks, requiring a significantly more difficult cleanup effort. That distinction is partially what led to such groups as the Great Lakes Dilbit Defenders, who have been an immeasurable ally and source of inspiration to Wahmhoff, along with the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS). There is no doubt he is surrounded by savvy, dedicated people.
In the meantime, Wahmhoff continued to work, plan, organize and demonstrate with that dedicated group of activists on a daily basis, folks who live for change day to day, who make it their work, their passion, and in many ways their identity. Wahmhoff, himself, has even gone so far in opening his heart to the community that he shares his home with a small handful of homeless people.
The following summer, on June 24, 2013, for his 35th birthday, Wahmhoff took part in yet another dramatically effective act of peaceful civil disobedience — he got down on his belly and rode his skateboard into Enbridge’s pipeline 6B. It was to be installed that day, increasing the load, finalizing a portion of the puzzle that would further endanger the Great Lakes and all to which they yield life. Though the portion of the pipeline Wahmhoff skated into was supposedly new and free of chemicals, there was a distinct chemical fog when he (and a devoted support team) pealed open the flimsy seal at the end of the pipe.
The noxious odor made Wahmhoff’s supporters second guess the action but Wahmhoff did it anyway, spending 10 hours in the darkness and fumes of the pipe before skating out of his own free will to be taken into custody. Together with a team of others, they were able to halt expansion of the pipeline for one day and draw more awareness to the issue. Their plan was to hope for the best for Chris, but ultimately use the legal system as a platform for furthering the community’s awareness and education regarding the Enbridge oil spill.
Now, after being postponed one week due to the polar vortex, Chris Wahmhoff is headed to court.
Monday morning at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 13th in Battle Creek, Mich., Wahmhoff and his attorney will file a motion to quash — his last court appearance before trial. Supporters are going so far as to offer gas money to those who would like to make it but don’t have the cash to spare for the trip, as evidenced on a Facebook event page.
Ok y’all… I am putting yup (sic) money for gas for those who need it in order to attend this event. Please try to fill that car and ride share. I am limited on funds, so let’s make the most of it.
Clearly people are willing to sacrifice what little they have to support Wahmhoff’s efforts, just as he does in turn for so many others, like the “felonious four” who locked themselves to Enbridge equipment in order to halt work for a day. (They face their own trials, as well.) The court room is sure to overflow with more than 80 motley participants and supporters traveling from all over the Midwest to offer solidarity.
The motion will be filed at 161 E. Michigan Ave., Battle Creek, Mich. 49014, Court Room 480.
Directly following his courtroom appearance, Wahmhoff will take his next bold step in serving his community and make a formal statement to the press at 3367 W. Dickman Rd. in Battle Creek, across from the U.S. Air National Guard base, where he will announce his candidacy in the 2014 race for the U.S. Senate. A small demonstration will follow the announcement.
My campaign intends to donate all of the money we collect to charity organizations that are doing good work. The primary goal is to give as much to charity as my opponents spend on their political campaigns.
Wahmhoff believes, like a majority of Americans, that “we need to get the money out of politics” and is working with a tight-knit team to construct the means for a more just, positive approach to community and world affairs, both in the public and private sectors. Wahmhoff clearly understands (and believes) that any power wielded by the U.S. government and military must reside in the people first and foremost.
In recent years under the Snyder administration, Michigan has fallen prey more and more to exploitative, dirty industry. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been sold out for drilling, rolling the dice on the safety of the Great Lakes, depleting the water supply in great, biblical gulps. A single well was recorded as using more than 21 million gallons, and this is in addition to companies such as Nestle sucking up public water for profit from Michigan’s water table, not to mention that the water lost in the fracking process is a permanent loss, having become radioactive and rendered unusable for any purpose for millennia upon millennia.
The outpouring of support for Chris Wahmhoff in his race for the U.S. Senate as he approaches his trial for civil disobedience against gas and oil giant, Enbridge Inc. suggests how ready, willing and able voters are for a change in Washington. With politicians and legislatures too bought and sold by the big industries to truly stand up for their constituents, Wahmhoff is ready to step into the stream and start digging up tarballs with his own two hands if necessary, and that’s what he’ll do for “the people” when elected to the U.S. Senate.? Watch him flow as Michigan voters make it clear that they are “Open 2 Better”.
If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Chris Wahmhoff, please call Chris at 269/910-6495, email him at [email protected], or contact Jessica Clark at 616/298-9318.? Email Jessica at [email protected]
Edited/Published by: SB