Happy Birthday Panagioti, Stay Wild, Stay Weird

28 Dec

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. You could also imagine that his pants became tattered in a heated orgy with a badger and a mountain lion.

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.

Against Grade Slavery, Against Civilization

Mugshot 1 of many.

Mugshot 1 of many.

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, making it all the way out West to defend forests with no compromise. He did his first stint of tree-sitting in

Mugshot 2 of many.

Mugshot 2 of many.

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 inColorado. 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.

Mugshot 3 of many.

Mugshot 3 of many.

Back in Florida Pana worked with various Food Not Bombs 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.

FTAA Protests in Miami, 2003

FTAA Protests in Miami, 2003

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 violations, 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, readers were asked to ponder the following when considering Panagioti for mayor:

Mugshot 4 of many.

Mugshot 4 of many.

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).

Oh Pana, don't be so dramatic!

Oh Pana, don’t be so dramatic! Those “10,000 homes” never got built in the Everglades.

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 strips down to hang-out with his dang-out, center stage front, 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 and out swim them back to shore. 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. 

And most importantly, on a sailing trip with Pana in a 28ft sailboat called “Dolphin,” we hit a terrible storm in the Caribbean somewhere between Key West and Key Largo and the guy turned completely green, puked for several hours straight and we almost died, seriously. In the end we wrecked the boat on a rubble pile of concrete dumped in the ocean and had to be rescued by a tow boat. Despite all that, he helped me fix the boat over the next few days and he was actually pretty damned cheery, even when throwing up. You really get to know someone’s worth, stamina and guts when there is no land in site and the aquatic angel of death is slapping jellyfish across your face. Pana showed his grit and it was lovely.

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!

I love you.

There he is, sitting on top of a coal truck blocking coal production again.

There he is, sitting on top of a coal truck blocking coal production again.


19 Responses to “Happy Birthday Panagioti, Stay Wild, Stay Weird”

  1. EF! J Collective December 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    !the best ever. thanks panagioti, for all that you do, and for bein my friend. happy birthday!!! ❤ mollyjane

    • ruddy.m.turnstone@gmail.com December 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      I’ve seen panagioti on the streets, in the swamp, on the heart trail in the courtroom, and on a bunch of road trips. (He’s such a good driving buddy!). He is the best i’ve seen representing himself without a lawyer pro se and the most fiery to people that are rubber stamping ecocide and so many forms of oppression. He is so awesome at working hard, playing hard and being able to focus on a task and keep the big picture in mind. I’m so lucky to have ya as an ally and good friend. Happy happy birthday! ❤ ruddy

  2. Scott Banbury December 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Dude, we need to party sometime! Happy Birthday!

  3. Brenna Bean December 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Happy birthday you crazy scoundrel. I am sure this wild adventurous memoir is just the tip of the ice burg. You are a beautiful shining example of truth and naked justice. We miss you lots and lots.
    -Brenna Bean and baby bean

  4. sasharr December 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I’ve never met a person so down to get neckidd… or listen to Bruce Springsteen… or both! I also never realized shaving your beard could be such an effective fundraising tool. you learn something all the time hanging out with Panagioti—old school kick ass organizer par excellence. I dedicate this song, Ochi Chyornia (Black Eyes) to you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZIFhJ6fyzk

    • tucsonoffice December 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Oh yeah, I forgot that one. We actually raised almost a grand with a Shave It or Save It fundraiser that had people stacking bills in two competing jars, one to see his big ass wiley beard shaved off and one to keep it wild. In the end it got shaved off!

  5. Murda December 28, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Happy Birthday Panagioti! Thanks for being such an allstar badass and inspiring me endlessly. And for holdin’ it down with me as 2 of the few LW aging used-to-be-punx. I know that you’re still punk as fuck and I won’t let anyone forget it! See ya in a few days, ❤ Murda

  6. Johnny Law December 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I’ll give ’em this much. He is a wily coyote but Johnny Law is a watchin’! Oh yeah! I’d like to see the FOIA on this guy.

  7. Brando December 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Much like many of the wild woodland critters Pana has fought for, he’ll eat your plate o’ cookies as soon as you turn your back.

    Love ya Panagioti! Happy birthday!

  8. panagioti December 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    aww shucks.. That’s a really damn sweet, albeit embarrassing, gift. thanks Russ, and all the folks who commented (including the weird Russian/German song) . oh, and if you’re really my friend you better all be subscribing the the Earth First! Journal– earthfistjournal.org .. pretty please.

  9. e-rock December 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    keep it wild panagioti! big love! hope to see you at the oc!
    thanks russ!

  10. Suki DeJong December 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    The most accessible guy I know. Everybody loves this man, because he loves everybody, he can see and understand all sides, even though he’s on the side of what’s right for the earth (and those other people just need to be enlightened… by him… which he’s happy to do with some good old-fashined conversation… yup, just sittin’ down and talkin’ to people is something he’s not too proud to do, not at all). He can set straight any of those county commissioners who maintain we need more development when what we really need is to let mama nature alone… he’s gonna be a great Dad, I love you a whole lot, Panagioti, have a Really Terrific Birthday!!! Big Kiss!!

  11. Ranko December 29, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    Happy Birthday Panagioti,

    I couldn’t ask for a better cyber friend than you!

  12. Cara December 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    and he is a real fine kisser!

  13. Matt M December 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    One of the finest human beings I have ever had the honor of knowing. Much love, Panagioti!!!

  14. dawn December 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    panagioti! with easy laugh & fierce spirit, i miss seeing you on the regular- especially the up-all-night look on your face, the sweet cravings, the surprise spectacles, & the sing-a-longs…. xoxo

  15. tuenasty December 31, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    If anyone knows my daughter this should say something- When she sees him she runs full force into his arms and screams “panajoiti.” —One time we were dropping her off on palm beach island before a painting job we had. Panayo was trying to explain to me why the police force should be erraticated and we were in a thick convorsation-because i didnt fully understand…in that moment the sirens and lights directed us to pull over…and for the first time I was asked to get out of the vehicle and I think I was searched for my first time although there was clearly a babyseat in the back, it was 8am, and we were in painting clothes. I guess I was travelling with an eco-terrorist and we had to be searched….it was that moment there was no need to converse anymore…fuck the police!!! Thanks panayo happy birthday lets go have ribs…and right on russ for doing this…

  16. Mildred March 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Good way of telling, and pleasant piece of writing to get information about my presentation focus,
    which i am going to convey in university.

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