Environment Magazine

Happy Birthday Panagioti, Stay Wild, Stay Weird

Posted on the 28 December 2012 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal

This Photoshopped image of Panagioti, which first appeared in this Lake Worth Wingnut article is, despite being doctored, a pretty decent metaphor for the inner fire of this biocentric patriot. You can imagine that he used the sword in his hand to do battle against the imperialist flag behind him.

by Russ McSpadden

If industrial civilization were to collapse any time soon–and its looking like it could happen any day now–it’d be in no small part due to the rather outrageous and tireless misadventures of a little known biocentric biped called Panagioti. 

Though he has no formal education past 10th grade — “diploma-free and proud” as he’d say — you’d be hard pressed to find a smarter and more politically influential animal amongst the more radical environmental milieu, especially in the South. He’s also a real sweetheart, a soon-to-be-father, my best friend and all around nice guy and superhero.

And over the years I’ve had the honor of  witnessing,  participating, and hearing stories of some of the nobler, crazier, illegaler, stupider, and just plane unbelievable acts of resistance and folly he’s helped organize. And, since its his birthday today, I thought I might embarrass him a little and honor him in some small way by sharing a smattering of those stories. I invite others (and especially family) to add their own accounts in the comments section, should they be inclined.

Sometime in the late 90s, Pana, a tenth grader at the time, was kicked out of East Lake High School in Clearwater, Fla., for protesting the FCAT, Florida’s standardized test. He was caught hanging posters in the bathroom encouraging students to “reconsider grade slavery.”

“I went to fight the principal and get him back in,” his father said to a journalist in 2005, “and do you know the same freakin’ day, he was protesting again?…So I kicked him out of the house. He didn’t want to work or go to school. He just wanted to sit with the homeless all day.”

So Pana hit the trails, hitchhiking, train hopping, and followed the spark ignited in him when he picked up his first Earth First! Journal at a head shop in Clearwater all the way out west to defend forests with no compromise. He did his first stint of tree-sitting in California’s redwoods and took part in the protests and riots of the Battle of Seattle in 1999. He drank ipecac, a syrup which induces vomiting, in a protest meant to show his disgust for the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado. Unfortunately, he was kicked out before the medicine took effect, and he and his green-faced friends had to drive down the winding mountain road, finally throwing-up in their own vehicle. The Earth Liberation Front later burned Vail to the ground.

Back in Florida Pana worked with various Food Not Bomb chapters, sharing food with the homeless, and finally settled in the coastal town of Lake Worth, Fla., following his love, Cara Jennings and her rise from radical anarchist cheerleader to anarchist city-commissioner of the town.

In 2002, the two sweeties and others helped defeat a proposed $20 million beach development.

In 2003, calling themselves the Lake Worth Global Justice Group, they facilitated and organized activists from around the world for the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami. The protests ended with riot police spraying rubber bullets and mace, 225 arrests, and eventually, a successful lawsuit from the Justice Group against the city of Miami for First Amendment abuses, especially several controversial laws meant to regulate protest activity, including a ban on dancing and gesticulating.

Then, between tripod blockades on busy highways, protests against migrant farm-worker abuses in Immokalee and an FBI issued warning about possible ecoterrorist activity in Lake Worth, Panagioti ran for mayor of the town. His platform: secession from the U.S. government, disbanding the police, dismantling civilization and changing the name of the town “so we don’t honor that greedy, racist, murderer William Jenkins Worth anymore.”  And while his paramour, Cara, did win public office, twice, Pana received only a handful of votes.

In a Feb. 24, 2005 Broward New Times article, the reader was asked to ponder the following when considering Panagioti for position of mayor:

The lean, green-eyed activist with the warm voice, easy smile, and rat’s tail lectures city leaders ad nauseum on land struggles, gentrification, and globalization. Cops, local businessmen, and even the FBI have voiced their suspicions about him. Is he an idealistic prankster? Or a dangerous eco-terrorist? What do you make of a guy who’s a part-time nude model, thinks the Unabomber’s manifesto was a “well-thought-out critique,” and doesn’t mind eating out of the garbage?

Answer: His brand of passion would have only been wasted in public office.

But Panagioti’s father seems to have answered it best: “Maybe one day he’ll be governor. But I’m not going to spend any money [on his campaign]. We’ll have no more electricity or big buildings. We’ll have to live in trees — like it was before Christ, I guess.”

Pana was even named ‘Troublemaker of the Year’ in 2009 and ‘Activist of the Year’ for 2010 by New Times magazine (Broward/Palm Beach edition).

I’ve spent jail time with Pana and seen him arrested several dozen times, once in the middle of a press conference by a U.S. marshal, once at a blockade to an enormous construction site for a power plant in the Everglades, once on television and a few times in routine traffic stops. He’s organized against and taken part in actions against a proposed biotech city in a forest near his home, against fracking in the Northeast, against the tar sands pipeline in Texas, against racist anti-immigrant measures, against, the democrats and republicans at several national conventions, against capitalism, sexism, homophobia and the trapping of dolphins by one of Lake Worth’s many, many vile mayors.

I’ve seen Pana, drunk and half naked, jump atop a bar to sing Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” to a crowd of old drunks.

I’ve performed with Pana, fully nude, in front of a Palm Beach audience, as the pissed-off draft card burning protesters in the musical hair. In one scene, Pana stips down to hang-out with his dang-out in center stage, under spot light, with a clenched fist in the air–epic and ridiculous! We even took our real protest against Florida Power and Light and Scripps Biotech into the theatrical production and were featured in the Palm Beach Post for it, the real life hippies playing fake hippies on stage.

I’ve seen him swim in a gator hole full of at least a dozen good sized gators. I’ve seen him take on the police for harassing local kids on curfew laws, most of them probably targeted because they are people of color. I’ve seen him chair meetings of wingnuts, lawyers, biologists NIMBYs, liberals, rednecks, and radicals and keep his wits about him. I’ve seen him, unsuccessfully, fish with a homemade cane pole, hunt a hog bare handed and take on the earth brutalizing industrial machine. 

He is now an editor of the Earth First! Journal, a backbone of a 30+ year radical publication that would be dead without him.

Panagioti is a living example of the existential beauty and absurdity of Don Quixote style resistance — true unwavering resistance — the kind that, though hardly ever victorious, has raged, and will rage on for eternity, or until good prevails over the Earth.

Happy birthday Panagioti!


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