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Best Political Activist Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2010 - Panagioti Tsolkas

Panagioti Tsolkas has his fingers in so many pies, it's a wonder he hasn't keeled over from diabetic shock. Tsolkas, who says he got his first taste of political activism in tenth grade, when he and fellow students stood on tables in a "spontaneous refusal" to continue taking the FCAT, has become an expert in the decade since at staging much taller stunts. He likes being up in the air: Acting with the Lake Worth Global Justice Group in 2004, Tsolkas mounted a giant tripod on Dixie Highway to protest a luxury condo being built in downtown Lake Worth. In 2009, he led an affinity group protest from the roof of a building on Dixie Highway and Banyan Boulevard in West Palm, where he hung a banner decrying FPL's plans for expansion into prized wetlands. Last year, he helped organize an action against FPL's West County Energy Center construction site that involved 25 activists tying themselves together to blockade Palm Beach Aggregates' rock mining operation. Tsolkas did 14 days jail time for his trouble (he still has more to serve). Now, Tsolkas is involved in a campaign to pass Slow Growth Amendment 4; he runs the Night Heron Grassroots Activist Center in Lake Worth, hosting lectures, art shows, classes, and afternoon tutoring sessions for kids; he plays key roles in the PBC Environmental Coalition, Everglades Earth First!, and the Green Party, with which he recently cowrote a green paper on Florida energy policy. How he found time this year to tangle with his Lake Worth Neighborhood Association, Tropical Ridge, is a mystery. But he managed to prod it into a new level of professional conduct: The association has a new set of bylaws and rules governing elections now, along with a renewed sense of the demographic it serves — association members had to shift their seats slightly left to make room for the radicals.
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13 comments
Ana Rodriguez
Ana Rodriguez

The ignorant and hateful comments made here are so ludicrous they're laughable. Did anyone else notice that all the people who are making hateful comments and using offensive, derogatory language towards other people are all the people who oppose what Panagioti does? I think it reflects a lot, it is so transparent how awful and racist these people are. By the way, the person who accused us and/or Panagioti in particular of being hateful towards the gay community is WAY out of line. That is one fabrication which I had never heard us get accused of. And also, "illegals" is a really offensive, derogatory and racist way of referring to other people. I wonder how many generations some of you all's parents have been in this continent since you all seem to think you have the authority to talk about deporting people whose entire lineage belongs in this continent. I don't think that benefiting from stolen land, genocide, slavery, exploitation, displacement and global bullying should be rewarded with legitimizing your superiority complex. You all need to work on yourselves really urgently. I hope you all begin to heal all that hate. The thing about hate and racism is that it eats you up. Not only those who you attack but also you yourself are a victim of your hate. It will eat you up from the inside. I hope you all heal.

Ana Rodriguez
Ana Rodriguez

"he runs the Night Heron Grassroots Activist Center in Lake Worth" is inaccurate. There is like 8 people and then some helping run the center. Reporters NEED to stop accusing people of being "leaders." It is really offensive and belittling to everyone else involved and in the face of all the group meetings that are endured and the basic group coordinating which often must take place in order to organize. Panagioti deserves this title... There is no need to say that he does everything alone to value and admire all that he does.

Rachel
Rachel

As a member of the working class I would like to say that I recognize the difficulties many may find in understanding Panagioti's tactics. Alas, activism as a full time (mostly unpaid) occupation has never been given the credit it deserves. The work that Panagioti engages in not only involves direct action such as road blocks, tripods, etc., but also painstaking research, massive networking, constant meetings, engagement in lawsuits, attending hearings, and a direct involvement in community affairs. Keeping up with all of this IS a full-time job with unpaid overtime and much sacrifice. To have a global perspective on many issues and attempt to implement local and national change is a task that few of us can handle, but so many of us long for. These efforts are unrelenting and incredibly sincere from him and many others in the Lake Worth area.

Jeff
Jeff

I hate anarchists but I have to admit that Pangioti backs several good causes. They are misguided on the illegal situation for sure. Eliminating code officers by his girlfriend was stupid.

John
John

Do Cara Jennings and panagioti attend the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Assoc. events and do cleanups too? Since they are so into the environment? If they are such leaders, maybe they can bring a couple hundred Guatemalans to clean up the entire TRNA since it is the Guats and illegals that pretty much trash the area. Cara, needs to step up and show her leadership in the TRNA and with the illegal immigrants she so strongly supports and wants here, does she know she is promoting human trafficking and modern-day slavery? She overlooks the overcrowding, the whore houses they have, and the lawlessness and chaos they create in this city. She says "education not deportation." What is she doing to educate them? Why should illegals get to sta here and not be deported? TRNA has gone to hell due to her poor leadership and anything goes mentality. They love their activism an to use the immigrants as part of their cause, but do they really care about the illegals?

Loretta
Loretta

Peter, Cara, Radam, javier, Lynn, the whole crew of hippie chicks and anarchists all ive off the US government, receiving welfare and gov. assistance. They refuse to work or pay taxes and have worked the system so that they can just scrounge off the government and be magets, they love to tout their global social justice rant to all, but are useless and lazy slugs sucking the blood off the US government while causing chaos and disorder to all. 822 North C street is a comun house for hippies, they have 10-20 hippies all living there pooping in sawdust and mulch and peeing in the bushes, they are so proud of their primitive ways.

Lorreta
Lorreta

Peter, Cara, Radam, javier, Lynn, the whole crew of hippie chicks and anarchists all ive off the US government, receiving welfare and gov. assistance. They refuse to work or pay taxes and have worked the system so that they can just scrounge off the government and be magets, they love to tout their global social justice rant to all, but are useless and lazy slugs sucking the blood off the US government while causing chaos and disorder to all. 822 North C street is a comun house for hippies, they have 10-20 hippies all living there pooping in sawdust and mulch and peeing in the bushes, they are so proud of their primitive ways.

Jean
Jean

Peter Evan Tsolkas is a real doozy always trying to draw attention by pulling these stunts, he got a $116 yesterday for protesting again, more activism that he is so proud of. How many times has he been arrested any way?

He and has friends, Radam, Cara, and Lynn love to use whoever or whatever for their radical anarchist ways, they use compass and gays to promote all of this yet hate gay people and like to call all others in the city xenophobic, yet really hate gays and whites, pretty ironic how they can supposedly be touting social justice for all and promote the illegal immigrant movement while allow and promoting human traficking and modern day slavery for them and encouraging all illegals to break all the laws here in this country and in Lake Worth, but then be so hateful toward gays and whites here, they are hypocrites just like more politicians are, don't buy the anarchists movement and social justice rant, it is all a false stance, they would love to be the new Che Guevarra, Castro, Chaves, and Morales of today in Lake Worth, but they are full of so much hate too, maybe not toward the Mayan, but toward the gays and whites who work so hard in the city. Stop the hate Peter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Funny how a winner is a hater, a winner of activism of hate toward Americans, go back to Greece where you belong then, stop being a racist pig toward whites and gays.

Javier
Javier

The NT forgot they did this article on tsolkas a few years ago too, many say he is a real fool here, they should have given the award instead to Javier Del Sol, at least he does something for the community, helps kids, grows gardens, and is kind to all:

A father assesses his anarchist son's chances of becoming Lake Worth's next mayor

BY DEIRDRA FUNCHEON - originally published: February 24, 2005 in New Times PalmBeach/Broward

Ilias Tsolkas, a Greek immigrant and retired industrial engineer who now owns a business plaza and a hotel in Clearwater, talks about his son, 24-year-old Panagioti Tsolkas: "He looks like a Greek fisherman. He's a very handsome kid. If he didn't have that brain -- that stupid brain -- he could have done something with his life."

Informed that his boy, Panagioti, is running for mayor of Lake Worth -- South Florida's last affordable coastal town, population 35,000 -- the elder Tsolkas says, "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."

Panagioti Tsolkas, who announced last fall that he's seeking Lake Worth's top job (apparently without informing his pop), isn't likely to get elected. If he does, he says, he'll quit. In any case, his efforts leading up to the March 8 election have so far been entertaining. 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?

"He was a very good student," his father says. "Panagioti was really close with the church. When he was 13, he used to feed the homeless every Wednesday. But he took it too serious -- started protesting for animals, started protesting for the homeless, started protesting for everything! You know one time he went up the tree and stayed 15 days?"

Ilias reports that his son was kicked out of East Lake High School in Clearwater during tenth grade for protesting the FCAT. "I went to fight the principal and get him back in, and do you know the same freakin' day, he was protesting again?"

That's right, Panagioti admits. He says he hung posters in the bathroom "encouraging other kids to reconsider grade slavery." Authorities booted him from school a second time.

"So I kicked him out of the house," Ilias says. "He didn't want to work or go to school. He just wanted to sit with the homeless all day."

After moving out, Panagioti began, in his own words, "hitchhiking, defending forests that hadn't been cut yet, [fighting to reopen] public space that had been closed off, and talking to homeless folks." He says he rode freight trains around Florida -- "not with a can of beans, more like with a dumpstered bagel and a jar of peanut butter" -- and in 2000 followed a girlfriend to Lake Worth, where she lived.

He moved into a house known as the Villa de Vulva with some feminists who called themselves radical cheerleaders. They'd dress up in uniforms, grab pom-poms, and stand outside of Taco Bell chanting against the company's purchase of tomatoes from a company that abuses its laborers.

In 2002, 60 percent of Lake Worth's voters -- with encouragement from Panagioti Tsolkas and friends, as well as more mainstream activists -- voted down a proposed $20 million beach development plan for the city. Encouraged by that victory, "we rallied around the idea of not letting developers get whatever they want," Panagioti says. "That's when we became more visible."

In November 2003, shortly before the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami, the group hit the network news. Calling themselves the Lake Worth Global Justice Group, they established a puppet-making warehouse downtown. Activists from around the world journeyed to the town to make banners, practice stilt-walking, and memorize radical cheers. "The FTAA was the first time we didn't all get together and take a road trip," Panagioti says. "We helped lay the foundation."

Those protests ended in a mess of riot police, rubber bullets, and pepper spray -- and about 225 arrests. So on February 4, 2004, the Global Justice group sued Miami, arguing that the city had interfered with demonstrators' First Amendment rights by passing several controversial laws designed to regulate demonstrations. On March 3, U.S. District Judge Donald Graham required the city to be more lenient, and a week later, city commissioners repealed the measure.

This past June 11, Panagioti and five friends erected a 25-foot-tall tripod in the middle of Dixie Highway and tied up downtown traffic for an hour. Angry that the city had approved plans for developer Gary Koolik to build a six-story luxury condo called the Lucerne on the town's quaint main drag, Panagioti Tsolkas climbed up a rope ladder into a hammock at the tripod's apex. Then he pulled up the ladder and hung two banners that read, "Urban Renewal Without Removal: No Luxury Condos" and "Developers will not control our city: No Lucerne."

Eventually, using a fire truck, authorities plucked Panagioti down, then arrested him along with three friends for unlawful assembly and obstructing a highway. But all were out of jail by noon; the group celebrated that evening by getting drunk and watching themselves on the news. Eventually, they pleaded no contest and were sentenced to eight hours of community service, a requirement Panagioti says they satisfied by spending about two hours setting up for the West Palm Beach Clematis by Night street festival.

Says his dad: "I don't know what Panagioti is looking for, he's not looking for a better life... You know that comedian who says I have four kids -- I put two through college and two through the wall... Well, I have three kids. I put two through college, and Panagioti went through the wall."

The same week as the tripod affair, the FBI issued a warning about possible ecoterrorist activity in Lake Worth. A few weeks later, Panagioti was at the Republican National Convention protesting with an "anarchist marching band." In November, he held signs outside the swank Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach while friends Lynn Purvis and Veronica Robleto protested the Scripps biotech park by running topless through the resort.

His dad laughs. "That's not my cup of tea," he says. "He hates the rich people. He's protesting any way he can. I've got different morals." What's Panagioti's mom's reaction? "She loves her kids no matter what. But we don't talk about it. If I say something, she gets upset. But she doesn't give him the reality. I give him the reality."

At a meeting convened by the Global Justice group shortly after the FBI warning, Mayor Rodney Romano challenged residents who were unhappy with the administration to run for office themselves. "I see the brainpower all over the city," he said. "But good people don't step up to the plate."

So Panagioti declared his candidacy and soon issued a platform -- one that advocates seceding 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." He added: "If I did get elected, you wouldn't have to recall me, 'cause I'd quit. On my way out of City Hall... I'll need help dragging all the useless paperwork over to the beloved Bonfire on the Beach."

Responds his dad: "The ideas he has are not going to work. I tell him, 'I went through dictatorships, kings, civil war -- all of that in Greece. Those systems don't work anymore.' If he was living 200 years ago, it could be OK. But today, we have a different society."

Romano says Panagioti Tsolkas is just "engaging in his social experiment. It bothers me greatly. What disappoints me about this young man is that he has a lot of potential. I have no right to be paternalistic, but..." Romano sighs, "it sounds like he's not really serious."

Local businesswoman Maryanne Webber -- a self-described liberal Democrat -- thinks "he's making a mockery of the system and a laughingstock of the town."

So is his campaign a joke? "No, it's not a joke," Panagioti Tsolkas says. "But I don't want to trick people into feeling that there's some legitimacy to the way things work around here."

"I know he means good," Panagioti's dad says. "He wants to keep the town natural, no condos and towers. That's the only town that's nice and small, and I would like to keep it this way too. But business is business." As much as he disagrees with his son's politics, he is impressed by what he's accomplished. "He's been to Seattle, to South America. I haven't even been to the places he's been. I took him to try to feed the homeless, and then he wants to become one! Well... he found a way to not work and to feed the homeless without working either! Good luck to him."

Deborah
Deborah

The guy is a big joke. He struts around Lake Worth with his giant ego. He thinks he's smarter than everyone else, especially people who actually go to work to earn a living each day. He doesn't accomplish a single thing with his stupid stunts. I would think if you're going to award a person for being the best political activist they would have shown some type of accomplishment. Anyone can act like an idiot.

Carlos
Carlos

This guy tsolkas is such a joke in Lake Worth. He loves to go around calling all the citizens and taxpayers xenophobes along with his radam friends, he likes to aid and abed illegals and calls everyone names who he diagrees with, a real kook, along with his sidekick CJ. They just want anarchy in this city, they are waging a full fledged war against the working class, yet do not want to work or pay taxes or contribute anything to society. They want no law or order here, they seek to cause major chaos here. Maybe someday they will lock them all up in jail for 14 years. Do um some good. What a great title to hold peter! You should feel real honored, hope your mommy and daddy are proud of you.

REALLY?
REALLY?

What a joke! Another PR puff piece by Gail Shepherd for the green team this election season. My favorite phrase is: "He managed to prod it into a new level of professional conduct." Have you ever seen this guy?

panagioti tsolkas
panagioti tsolkas

Hey.. thanks for the recognition. I have two clarifications: -The Night Heron is run by a volunteer collective, of which i am one member; -The FPL construction site is on the rock mining site, so it was a two-fer, but we were primarily going after FPL at the time.

And while i have your attention, i'd love to direct people interest towards our groups' latest efforts to defeat Scripps (again): www.ScrapScripps.info

Much thanks to everyone who has supported my efforts over the years. And much thanks to the community of anarchists in Lake Worth who keep me inspired.

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