Venezuela violence: Woman killed, 4 injured as thousands vote in opposition referendum

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans lined up across the country and in expatriate communities around the world Sunday to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that’s raising tensions in a nation battered by shortages and anti-government protests.

A 61-year-old woman was killed and four people wounded by gunfire that erupted after government supporters on motorcycles swarmed an opposition polling site in a church in the traditionally pro-government Catia neighborhood of western Caracas.

The opposition mayor of the Caracas borough of Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, said pro-government paramilitary groups attacked voters outside the Our Lady of Carmen Church around 3 p.m. The chief prosecutor’s office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

Video posted to social media showed massive crowds outside the church, then hundreds of people running in panic outside the church as motorcycle-riding men zoomed past and shots rang out.

Maduro made no mention of the incident in comments on state television shortly after the official close of opposition polls at 4 p.m., but he called for an end to violence that he blamed on the opposition.

“I’m calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk,” Maduro said. “Let’s start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace.”

In what appeared to be smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for a July 30 vote to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela’s 1999 constitution.

The opposition says that vote has been structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party.

The success of the opposition’s symbolic referendum will be measured by how many millions participate. Democratic Unity, a coalition of some 20 opposition parties, has printed 14 million ballots for voters inside and outside the country of 31 million people. Few expect turnout that high but analysts say participation by more than 8 million people would significantly hike pressure on the government.

Participation appeared to be high, with large crowds of people lining up at tables in churches and parks across the capital. Ballots were still being counted late Sunday.

“Since we opened at 7 a.m. the line hasn’t let up,” said Pedro Garcia, organizer of a voting station filled with hundreds of people in the south Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, a stronghold of government support that has been weakening in recent years.

Juan Madriz, a 45-year-old insurance company employee, said he didn’t object to rewriting the constitution per se, but rejected Maduro’s decision to do so without putting that decision to a vote, as his predecessor Hugo Chavez did.

“If they’re forcing us, it isn’t democracy,” Madriz said.

Isabel Santander, a 67-year-old retired auditor, said she was voting against the constitutional assembly as a protest against the country’s economic collapse.

“I signed because there’s no medicine, no food, no security,” she said. “There’s no separation of powers, no freedom of expression.”

Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships. The country’s chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party.

The opposition is boycotting the constitutional assembly. Instead, it called backers to 2,000 sites across the country to fill out ballots featuring three yes-or-no questions. Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they want the armed forces to back congress? Do they support the formation of a government comprised both of Maduro backers and opponents?

The government calls the opposition vote a manipulation aimed at destabilizing the country, and has been urging its supporters to participate in the constitutional assembly, which it calls a way of restoring peace to Venezuela.

“Some comrades and brothers may be worn out by the right’s great media campaign. Now they’ve invented this July 16 thing to put the burden on their own people and evade their responsibility,” socialist party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said Saturday. “That’s how the right is, manipulative, fooling their own people.”

Polls show that barely 20 percent of Venezuelans favor rewriting the late Hugo Chavez’s 1999 constitution about the same level of support as for Maduro.

For the government-backed rehearsal, hundreds lined up outside a school in El Valle guarded by heavily armed soldiers and militiamen, waiting quietly to place a practice vote that also served as a show of support for the government.

“Our president Chavez supported the poor, the people,” said Yveth Melendez, a 41-year-old homemaker. “Today we’re following his legacy, with President Nicolas Maduro … The constitutional assembly is something that benefits the people.”

Opponents of Venezuela’s government blame it for turning one of the region’s most prosperous countries into an economic basket case with a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages. The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices.

Clashes between protesters and police have left at least 93 people dead, 1,500 wounded and more than 500 behind bars.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/07/17/venezuela-violence-woman-killed-4-injured-as-thousands-vote-in-opposition-referendum.html

Gaza electricity crisis: ‘It is the worst I can remember but we expect it to get worse’

Move by Mahmoud Abbas to cut electricity to 2-4 hours a day in escalation of row with Hamas is affecting quality of life for Gazans

In Imad Shlayls electronics shop in Gaza City, the customers crowding his store are interested in only two products: LED lights and the batteries to power them.

In the already impoverished Gaza Strip, residents have learned to adapt to the fact that electricity is only available for between two and four hours a day.

But fresh anger was sparked when availability was cut further last month, at the request of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in an escalation of his conflict with Hamas, the Islamist group that wrested control of the Gaza strip from forces loyal to Abbas 10 years ago.

The shortages have defined how people live their lives: getting up in the middle of the night, if there is power, to run washing machines or turn on water pumps.

Only the wealthy few have frequent, long-lasting access to electricity to power lights and fans and fridges, televisions and wifi routers, in Gazas stifling summer heat.

We used to sell all sorts of things, says Shlayl. But its different these days. All we sell is batteries and chargers. Because the crisis is so deep we are selling 100 batteries a day when normally we would sell 20.

Gaza electricity crisis explainer

Gaza requires 430 megawatts of power to meet daily demand, but receives only half that. Sixty megawatts are supplied by its solitary power station, now short on fuel, while the rest is supplied by Israel and funded by Abbass West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA).

Abbass move to cut supplies to Gaza, which is already under a joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade now in its 11th year has quickly made him a hate figure among many Gazans, who question why he is punishing 2 million fellow Palestinians in what appears to be an attempt to force Hamas to relinquish control of the territory.

Though business is good for Shlayl, he is angry at the fresh shortages faced by Gazans that affect all areas of life, from hospital emergency wards to clean water supplies.

Ive not done anything to be punished by anyone. It is the worst I can remember but we are expecting it to get worse and worse, he said. Not just electricity, but other things as well. We are in a very deep descent.

As well as cutting electricity, the PA has cut salaries for its employees in Gaza by upwards of 30% , prompting thousands to protest on the streets of Gaza city.

Residents also blame Abbas for a backlog in processing the medical referral process for those needing to travel out of Gaza for treatment, although who is at fault in that issue is less clear cut.

The problems facing Gaza where high levels of unemployment are endemic is most obvious in the poorest areas.

In Gaza Citys al-Shati refugee camp, home to the head of Hamass political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, whole housing blocks were dark, while in others only a handful of windows were weakly illuminated.

In the one-room kiosk selling pigeons and chickens that he manages, just off the camps main market, Ayman Nasser, 32, is sitting on the street with his friends in search of a sea breeze.

His face is illuminated by the light of his mobile phone. He has one battery-powered light burning in his shop.

Part of the problem is that we dont have any news. Who should we blame for this? Hamas, Israelis, Abbas? he said.

A
A Palestinian girl reads by candlelight due to a power cut at the Jabalia camp in Gaza City. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

His friend, Ashraf Kashqin, interrupts: It is all connected to politics, but it is us who is getting played by the two sides.

If there is a question that all the Palestinians in Gaza are asking, it is what the ageing and remote Abbas hopes to achieve, not least whether he hopes the cuts will lead to an insurrection against Hamas following demonstrations linked to the power supply in January.

While a senior official in the Fatah-led government on the West Bank said last month that the aim behind the move by the PA which has been paying $12m (9m) a month for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza was to dry up Hamass financial resources, others are dubious about the timing, the motive and the real impact.

Among them are human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, who have warned it could turn Gazas long-running crisis into a major disaster already hitting hospitals and waste treatment plants.

For 10 years the siege has unlawfully deprived Palestinians in Gaza of their most basic rights and necessities. Under the burden of the illegal blockade and three armed conflicts, the economy has sharply declined and humanitarian conditions have deteriorated severely. The latest power cuts risk turning an already dire situation into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, said Magdalena Mughrabi, of the group.

Then there is the question of timing. Abbas is probably the only one who knows why he is doing this to Gaza, adds Mohameir Abu Sada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University and analyst.

I honestly dont buy what he has been saying for the last three months: that he will take exceptional measures against Hamas to put pressure on it to give up control of the Gaza Strip.

Staff
Staff in Imad Shlayls electronics shop in Gaza City test a battery storage system, a popular product in the midst of Gazas worst electricity crisis in recent memory. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian

I dont buy it because it does not explain why he waited 10 years to put pressure like this on Hamas?

Honestly speaking, if he had done it in the first few months, the split would have been resolved. And now Abbas is not punishing Hamas he is punishing 2 million Palestinians. I mean, Hamas leaders have giant generators. It is the poor people who are suffering.

Another thing that does not make sense is, how do you explain cutting salaries to the people who are supposed to be most loyal to the Palestinian Authority and Abbas. The same people who have been arrested and tortured by Hamas?

Sada is also dubious whether Abbass extreme measure against Gaza can work, pointing to the fact that Hamas has survived a decade of blockade and three wars with Israel.

Gazas
Gazas solitary power plant for its 2 million residents, which has been running at a fraction of its capacity. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian

Every time Hamas is under pressure they are able to invent new ways to go around the siege, he said. This is not a productive way against Hamas. If he thinks Palestinians in Gaza will revolt against Hamas, then Abbas is mistaken.

Taher al-Nounou, an adviser to Haniyeh, suggested the electricity crisis had been engineered largely to distract attention from Abbass own failures.

Abbas wants to create a hostile environment against Hamas in Gaza, but he has failed in this. [His first motive] is the failure of his political path during the last 11 years because no one is asking him what he has achieved in 11 years for the Palestinian people.

He believes Abbass latest moves will only bring further woes for his fellow Palestinians.

If, in the past, you asked ordinary people here who was responsible for the difficulties in Gaza, people would have said Israel or Hamas or maybe Abbas. Now if you ask theyll say Abbas.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/10/gaza-electricity-crisis-it-is-the-worst-i-can-remember-mahmoud-abbas

How Paul Robeson found his political voice in the Welsh valleys

African American star Robeson built his singing career in the teeth of racism in the early 1900s. But his radicalism was spurred on in Britain by a chance meeting with a group of Welsh miners

Paul Robeson possessed one of the most beautiful voices of the 20th century. He was an acclaimed stage actor. He could sing in more than 20 different languages; he held a law degree; he won prizes for oratory. He was widely acknowledged as the greatest American footballer of his generation. But he was also a political activist, who, in the 1930s and 1940s, exerted an influence comparable to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in a later era.

The son of an escaped slave, Robeson built his career despite the segregation of the Jim Crow laws basically, an American apartheid system that controlled every aspect of African American life. He came to London with his wife Eslanda known as Essie partly to escape the crushing racism of his homeland. Yet later in life he always insisted that he became a radical as much because of his experiences in Britain as in America. In particular, he developed a deep bond with the labour movement particularly with the miners of Wales. That was why, in 2016, I travelled from my home in Australia to visit the landscape that shaped Robesons politics.

Pontypridd was a village carved out of stone. Grey terraced cottages, grey cobbled streets, and an ancient grey bridge arching across the River Taff.

The sky was slate, too, a stark contrast with the surrounding hills, which were streaked with seasonal russet, teal and laurel.

I was accustomed to towns that sprawled, as white settlers stretched themselves out to occupy a newly colonised land. Pontypridd, I realised, huddled. Its pubs and churches and old-fashioned stores were clutched tightly in the valley, in a cosy snugness that left me feeling a long way from home. Id come here to see Beverley Humphreys, a singer and the host of Beverleys World of Music on BBC Wales.

I have a strong feeling that we might meet in October! shed written, when Id emailed her about the Paul Robeson exhibition she was organising. I know from personal experience that once you start delving into Paul Robesons life, he just wont leave you alone.

In that correspondence, shed described Pontypridd as the ideal place to grasp Pauls rich relationship with Wales and its people. I knew that, in the winter of 1929, Paul had been returning from a matinee performance of Show Boat [in London] when he heard male voices wafting from the street. He stopped, startled by the perfect harmonisation and then by the realisation that the singers, when they came into view, were working men, carrying protest banners as they sang.

By accident, hed encountered a party of Welsh miners from the Rhondda valley. They were stragglers from the great working-class army routed during what the poet Idris Davies called the summer of soups and speeches the general strike of 1926. Blacklisted by their employers after the unions defeat, they had walked all the way to London searching for ways to feed their families. By then, Robesons stardom and wealth were sufficient to insulate him from the immiseration facing many British workers, as the industrialised world sank into the economic downturn known as the Great Depression.

Singing
Singing with a choir in a scene from The Proud Valley. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Yet he remembered his fathers dependence on charity, and he was temperamentally sympathetic to the underdog. Without hesitation, he joined the march.

Some 50 years later, [his son] Pauli Robeson visited the Talygarn Miners Rehabilitation Centre and met an elderly man whod been present on that day in 1929. The old miner talked of how stunned the marchers had been when Robeson attached himself to their procession: a huge African American stranger in formal attire incongruous next to the half-starved Welshmen in their rough-hewn clothes and mining boots.

But Robeson had a talent for friendship, and the men were grateful for his support. He had remained with the protest until they stopped outside a city building, and then he leaped on to the stone steps to sing Ol Man River and a selection of spirituals chosen to entertain his new comrades but also because sorrow songs, with their blend of pain and hope, expressed emotions that he thought desperate men far from home might be feeling.

Afterwards, he gave a donation so the miners could ride the train back to Wales, in a carriage crammed with clothing and food.

That was how it began. Before the year was out, hed contributed the proceeds of a concert to the Welsh miners relief fund; on his subsequent tour, he sang for the men and their families in Cardiff, Neath, and Aberdare, and visited the Talygarn miners rest home in Pontyclun.

From then on, his ties with Wales only grew.

Robeson remained [living] in Buckingham Street, London. He and Essie maintained a public profile as a celebrity couple, still mixing easily with polite society and the intelligentsia. But Robeson was now aware of the labour movement, and began to pay attention to its victories and defeats. His frequent visits to mining towns in Wales were part of that newfound political orientation.

You can see why hes remembered around here, Humphreys said. He was so famous when he made those connections, and the Welsh mining community was so very cowed. In the wake of the general strike, people felt pretty hopeless.

A Robeson exhibition opened in Pontypridd in October 2015 and was an echo of a much grander presentation from 2001, which Humphreys had assembled with Hywel Francis, then Labour MP for Aberavon, and Paul Robeson Jr [Robesons son died in 2014]. It was first shown at the National Museum in Cardiff and then toured the country.

Staging that event had been a revelation for Humphreys. Shed known that memories of Robeson ran deep in Wales, but shed still been astonished by the response. Every day of the exhibit, people shared their recollections, speaking with a hushed fervour about encounters with Paul that had stayed with them for ever.

Robeson
Robeson at Waterloo Station in London in 1935. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Pauls interactions with Wales were shaped by the violence of mining life: the everyday hardship of long hours and low wages, but also the sudden spectacular catastrophes that decimated communities. In 1934, hed been performing in Caernarfon when news arrived of a disaster in the Gresford colliery. The mine there had caught fire, creating an inferno so intense that most of the 266 men who died underground, in darkness and smoke, were never brought to the surface for burial. At once, Robeson offered his fees for the Caernarfon concert to the fund established for the orphans and children of the dead an important donation materially, but far more meaningful as a moral and political gesture.

That was part, Humphreys said, of why Wales remembered him. He was by then among the most famous stars of the day, the recording artist whose songs many hummed, and yet he was showing an impoverished and struggling community people who felt themselves isolated and abandoned that he cared deeply about them.

And the continuing affection for Robeson was more than a recollection of generosity. The Welsh sensed the relationship was reciprocal, said Humphreys. That he was deriving something from their friendships, from seeing how people in the mining communities supported one another and cared for one another. He later said he learned more from the white working class in Wales than from anyone..

Certainly, Robeson discovered Wales and the British working class in general at just the right time. Hed signed up, with great hopes, for a film version of [Eugene ONeills play] The Emperor Jones in 1933 the first commercial film with a black man in the lead. But the process played out according to a familiar and dispiriting pattern. Robesons contract stipulated that, during his return to America, he wouldnt be asked to film in Jim Crow states. Star or not, it was impossible to be shielded from institutional racism. At the end of his stay, as he arrived at a swanky New York function, he was directed to the servants entrance rather than the elevator. One witness said he had to be dissuaded from punching out the doorman, in a manifestation of anger hed never have revealed in the past.

The Emperor Jones itself was still very much shaped by conservative sensibilities: among other humiliations, the studio darkened the skin of his co-star, lest audiences thought Robeson was kissing a white woman. Not surprisingly, while white critics loved the film and Robesons performance, he was again attacked in the African American press for presenting a demeaning stereotype.

A few years earlier, he might have found refuge in London from the impossible dilemmas confronting a black artist in America. But hed learned to see respectable England as disconcertingly similar, albeit with its prejudices expressed through nicely graduated hierarchies of social class. To friends, he spoke of his dismay at how the British upper orders related to those below them. He was ready, both intellectually and emotionally, for the encounter with the Welsh labour movement.

There was just something, Humphreys said, that drew Welsh people and Paul Robeson together. I think it was like a love affair, in a way. And that seemed entirely right.

In
In the 1940 film The Proud Valley, about a Welsh community that takes in a black unemployed seaman. Photograph: Getty Images

The next morning, Humphreys and I walked down the hill, beneath a sky that warned constantly of rain. We made our way to St Davids Uniting Church on Gelliwastad Road. From the outside, it seemed like a typically stern embodiment of Victorian religiosity: a grey, rather grim legacy of the 1880s.

Inside, though, the traditional church interior the pews, the pulpit, the altar was supplemented by a huge banner from the Abercrave lodge of the National Union of Mineworkers, hanging just below the stained-glass windows. Workers of the world unite for peace and socialism, it proclaimed, with an image of a black miner holding a lamp out to his white comrade in front of a globe of the world.

The walls held huge photos of Paul Robeson: in his football helmet on the field at Rutgers [University]; on a concert stage, his mouth open in song; marching on a picket line. These were the displays extracted from the 2001 exhibition.

We chatted with parishioners, who were taking turns to keep the Robeson display open during the day for black history month.

The service itself reminded me of my morning in the Witherspoon Street church, except that, while in Princeton [where Robeson was born] Id marvelled at the worshippers command of the black vocal tradition, here I was confronted by the harmonic power of Welsh choristers: the old hymns voiced in a great wall of sound resonating and reverberating throughout the interior.

Robeson, of course, had made that comparison many times. Both the Wesleyan chapels of the Welsh miners and the churches in which hed worshipped with his father were, he said, places where a weary and oppressed people drew succour from prayer and song.

His movie The Proud Valley (released as The Tunnel in the US), which had brought him to Pontypridd in 1939, rested on precisely that conceit. In the film (the only one of his movies in which he took much pride), Robeson played David Goliath, an unemployed seaman who wanders into the Welsh valley and is embraced by the miners when the choir leader hears him sing.

Throughout the 1930s, the analogy between African Americans and workers in Britain (and especially Wales) helped reorient Robeson, both aesthetically and politically, after his disillusionment with the English establishment.

His contact with working-class communities in Britain provided him with an important reassurance. He told his friend Marie Seton about a letter he received from a cotton-spinner during one of his tours. This man said he understood my singing, for while my father was working as a slave, his own father was working as a wage slave in the mills of Manchester.

That was in northern England, but he experienced a similar commonality everywhere, and it pleased and intrigued him. If the slave songs of the US were worth celebrating, what about the music emerging from other oppressed communities? What connections might the exploration of distinctive cultural traditions forge between different peoples?

Significantly, it was in Wales where Robeson first articulated this new perspective. In 1934, he gave a concert in Wrexham, in north Wales, between the Welsh mountains and the lower Dee valley alongside the border with England. Yet again it was a charity performance, staged at the Majestic Cinema for the benefit of the St John Ambulance Association.

During the visit, Robeson was interviewed by the local paper, and he told the writer he was no longer wedded to a classical repertoire. Hed come to regard himself as a folk singer, devoted to what he called the eternal music of common humanity. To that end, he was studying languages, working his way haphazardly through Russian, German, French, Dutch, Hungarian, Turkish, Hebrew, and sundry other tongues so as to perform the songs of different cultures in the tongues in which they had been written. He had become, he said, a singer for the people.

Movie
Movie star: Robeson, right, with Sir Cedric Hardwicke in the 1937 film King Solomons Mines. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

The confidence of that statement reflected another lesson drawn primarily from Wales. In African American life, the black church had mattered so much because religion provided almost the only institutional stability for people buffeted by racial oppression. In particular, because Jim Crow segregated the workplace, black communities struggled to form and maintain trade unions. Wales, though, was different. The miners found consolation in religion, with every village dotted with chapels. But they believed just as fervently in trade unionism.

The Gresford disaster showed why. In an industry such as mining, you relied on your workmates both to get the job done safely and to stand up for your rights. The battle was necessarily collective. A single miner possessed no power at all; the miners as a whole, however, could shut down the entire nation, as theyd demonstrated in 1926.

In particular, the cooperation mandated by modern industry might, at least in theory, break down the prejudices that divided workers even, perhaps, the stigma attached to race. That was the point Robeson dramatised in The Proud Valley, a film in which the solidarity of the workplace overcomes the miners suspicion about a dark-skinned stranger. Arent we all black down that pit? asks one of the men.

Its from the miners in Wales, Robeson explained, [that] I first understood the struggle of Negro and white together.

To understand Pauls relationship with Wales, Humphreys told me the following day, you need to understand Tiger Bay.

She introduced me to Lesley Clarke and to Harry Ernest and his son Ian. The three of them came from Tiger Bay, the centre of Waless black community. Theyd worked on the original exhibition in Cardiff, after Humphreys had insisted that the National Gallery employ black guides, and now theyd come to Pontypridd to witness the new display.

At 82, Lesley Clarke was thin but sprightly and alert. She spoke slowly and carefully. I hadnt realised there was a colour bar until I left Tiger Bay. When I went to grammar school, I realised for the first time that there were people who just didnt like coloured people. Didnt know anything about us, but didnt like us. I didnt know I was poor and I didnt know I was black: all I knew was that I was me.

Tiger Bay was forged by some of the worst racial attacks in British history. In June 1919, returning soldiers encountered a group of black men walking with white women. Outraged, the troops, led by colonials (mostly Australians), rampaged throughout Butetown, attacking people of colour, destroying houses, and leaving four dead.

For Clarke and Ernests generation, the colour bar was very real, especially in employment. Ernest was impish and bald, and his eyes crinkled as he spoke, almost as if he took a perverse humour in the recollection. Wed ask if a job was open, he said, and soon as they said yes, wed say, Can I come for an interview right now? To narrow the gap, because the minute you got there they would say, Oh, the job is gone.

The minute they saw you were black, that was it, said Clarke. You just took it for granted that it was going to happen. There were very few outlets, especially for girls. You either worked in the brush factory or you worked in Ziggys, selling rags and whatnot, or there was a place just over the bridge that did uniforms.

I worked in the brush factory for a while, Ernest said. Oh, Jesus!

He shook his head and laughed in dismay. Jesus.

Addressing
Addressing the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Ebbw Vale, 1958.

Robeson had reached out to the Welsh miners when his career was at its height. They came back to him at his lowest ebb, almost two decades later, at a time when all hed achieved seemed to have been taken from him. In the midst of the cold war, the FBI prevented Robeson from performing at home. [Hed proclaimed his sympathy for the Soviet Union ever since the mid-30s. That leftism now made him a target. He became, in Pete Seegers words, the most blacklisted performer in America, effectively silenced in his home country,] Worse still, the US state department confiscated his passport, so he could not travel abroad. He was left in a kind of limbo: silenced, isolated, and increasingly despairing.

On 5 October 1957, the Porthcawl Grand Pavilion filled with perhaps 5,000 people for the miners eisteddfod. Will Painter, the union leader, took to the microphone. After welcoming the delegates, he announced that they would soon hear from Paul Robeson, whod be joining them via a transatlantic telephone line.

When Painter spoke again, he was addressing Robeson directly. We are happy that it has been possible for us to arrange that you speak and sing to us today, he said. We would be far happier if you were with us in person.

Miraculously, Robesons deep voice crackled out of the speakers in response. My warmest greetings to the people of my beloved Wales, and a special hello to the miners of south Wales at your great festival. It is a privilege to be participating in this historic festival.

He was seated in a studio in New York. Down the telephone line, he performed a selection of his songs, dedicating them to their joint struggle for what he called a world where we can live abundant and dignified lives.

The musical reply came from the mighty Treorchy Male Choir, the winners of that years eisteddfod, and a group that traces its history back to 1883. Robeson joined the choir in a performance of the Welsh national anthem, Land of My Fathers, before the entire audience all 5,000 of them serenaded him with Well Keep a Welcome. This land you knew will still be singing, they chorused. When you come home again to Wales.

This is an edited extract from No Way But This by Jeff Sparrow, published by Scribe (14.99). To order a copy for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/02/how-paul-robeson-found-political-voice-in-welsh-valleys

At Pride celebrations, protesters chant ‘No Justice, No Pride’

(CNN)At Pride celebrations across the United States on Sunday, a protest movement that aims to draw attention to the struggles of marginalized people within the LGBTQ community made itself heard.

Activists carrying signs declaring “No Justice No Pride” and “Black Lives Matter” appeared in New York, Minneapolis and Seattle, among other major cities. In some they were welcomed and invited to speak; in others, the activists interrupted parades and clashed with police, leading to an unconfirmed number of arrests.
The protests disrupted pride events earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, DC. Their causes varied — police shootings, violence against transgender women of color, mass deportations, corporate sponsorship of Pride — but organizer Angela Peoples said members of the grassroots movement were united by concerns of the “whitewashing” of the LGBTQ community.
    “There’s a broad concern among LGBTQ folks, especially people of color, that this movement that claims victory around marriage equality has very much left behind those of us who still experience marginalization,” Peoples said.
    Law enforcement’s participation in Pride parades embodies the disconnect, she said, pointing to the arrests of protesters last weekend in Columbus. So does the involvement of corporate sponsors that benefit from mass incarceration and the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, she said.
    “This is a true grassroots movement where people are aligning under the notion that there’s no equality and pride for some of us without reparations for all of us,” she said.
    In Minneapolis, protesters waving “Black Lives Matter signs” marched behind a large banner that read “Justice for Philando” in honor of Philando Castile, who was shot to death in a traffic stop. A jury acquitted the officer who killed him earlier this month.
    Protesters blocked the parade route and delayed its start by more than an hour as they called for police to be excludedfrom Pride events.
    Activists in Seattle halted the parade by blocking the road in honor of Charleena Lyle, a 30-year-old woman whom police said they shot and killed because she refused commands to drop a knife.
    In New York, police said 12 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. They were detained outside the historic Stonewall Inn as they carried signs that read “No Cops, No Banks.”
    NYC Pride organizers said they have a policy against restricting groups from participating. They said they decided to “authorize” the arrests so the march could proceed after the activists had demonstrated for 10 minutes.
    “There were some 40,000 marchers behind them who needed to have their message (heard) as well,” NYC Pride spokesperson James Fallarino said. “We believe strongly that it’s a free speech event. That has worked on both ends of the spectrum. We have always held the line that any group interested in our march can participate.”
    Fallarino said it was impossible to run an event of Pride’s size without police presence. Parade organizers recognize that police violence is a “major issue” in the United States, he said. They’re trying to address it through a “good working relationship” with the NYPD.
    “As you probably know, this march started after a police raid at Stonewall Inn. We’ve come a long way since then.”
    Indeed, Pride originated 48 years ago in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a series of uprisings by women of color from the LGBTQ community over the Inn’s raid.
    The significance of Pride’s origins makes it the ideal staging ground for today’s protests within the LGBTQ community, Peoples said. But they will continue after Pride ends.
    “If you truly honor the history of Pride as well as the crisis we’re in, then you will recognize the need for disruption to bring attention to issues of marginalized people,” she said. “This is not a one-off movement.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/25/us/no-justice-no-pride-protests/index.html

    Massive Early Voting In Georgia Runoff Heightens Expectations In Campaign’s Final Days

    More than 140,000 people have already cast ballots ahead of Tuesdays hotly contested U.S.House special election runoff in Georgia, indicating high interest in the race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel that both parties see as an important bellwether.

    Early voting ended Friday, and the ballots already cast more than double the comparable figure in Aprils first-round election, and amount to almost three quarters of the 192,000 people who voted in that 18-candidate race.

    With spending on advertising by both sides nearing a total of $40 million, the race already ranks as the most expensive House contest in U.S. history.

    Ossoff and Handel, as the top finishers in the first round, are vying for a seat in suburban Atlanta vacated by Republican Tom Price, who is now President Donald Trumps secretary of health and human services. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also once represented the district.

    The high early vote total indicates that the final numbers on Tuesday will likely far surpass those of the April election.Election officials in Georgia hailed the unprecedented and phenomenal turnout, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It remained unclear, though, which candidate would benefit from a higher turnout.

    Ossoff led by slightly more than 2 percentage points in the HuffPost Pollster average of recent surveys of the race.

    Price won re-election November, garnering almost 62 percent of the roughly 311,000 votes cast.

    Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters
    Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff debate earlier this month at a television studio in Atlanta.

    Democrats in particular see the race to replace Price as a test of anti-Trump activism and strategy ahead of next years midterm elections. While they have made some impressive showings, they have yet to notch a victory in several highly anticipated congressional special elections this yearin traditionally GOP territory.

    In Aprils election, Ossoff won about 48 percent of the vote, falling just short of clearing the 50 percent mark he needed to avoid a runoff. Handel, one of 11 Republicans competing in the first round, got about 20 percent.

    Over the weekend, Ossoff and Handel both campaigned with high-profile political figuresin hopes of generating more enthusiasm. Price, as well as former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue who now serves as Trumps agriculture secretary joined Handel at a Saturday campaign stop. Ossoff got a boost Saturday from civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/georgia-6th-runoff-early-voting-ossoff-handel_us_5946bd91e4b0f15cd5bc2aab

    So Trumps too scared to come to the UK. Who says protest doesnt work? | Hugh Muir

    If he cant bomb it or tweet against it, the US presidents cupboard of responses seems bare. We may be denied a spectacle, then, but saved a distraction

    How might President Trump react to a world leader who, afraid for his image, perhaps afraid for himself, refused to fulfil a promise to visit a loyal ally. He might fire off a tweet: RAN from critics. A gift for crooked MSM. TOTAL pathetic loser!

    But he wont, because the loser is him. He got to hold hands with Theresa May when she visited Washington, but alas, that may be the high point of his cuddle-fest with her, and with us because Trump, it now appears, is not keen on making his proposed state visit to Britain any time soon.

    He has apparently, in a recent telephone call to the prime minister, declared that he does not want to come if there are to be large-scale protests. The visit, we are told, is on hold.

    Some may be surprised by this. From the violence and menace that became features of his ugly campaign, it was easy to assume that he liked a bit of edge at his public appearances. But on those occasions, he knew he would always have the support of far-right thugs and hangers-on who could drown out dissent and, if need be, throw a few punches at protesters, passers-by, anyone who would dare to question him. That intimidation, unprecedented in recent history, would have been more difficult to replicate here; he could hardly bring his street fighters with him. There are only so many seats on Air Force One.

    Maybe he didnt fancy the trip without Theresa there to hold his hand; to keep him strong and stable, as it were. Even he might blanch all the way from Tango orange to the whitest white at the idea of skipping through the Downing Street rose garden hand in hand with Phil the spreadsheet Hammond or Boris Johnson.

    So we may be denied a spectacle then but will hopefully be saved from the distraction of Trumps bandwagon when we may be fixating on at least one more general election, and we should certainly be focusing on the history-defining implications of Brexit.

    Saved too for now at least the embarrassment of those who offered Trump the invitation in the first place, those who saw our new place in the world as lying at the feet of a reprobate.

    And what do we learn from this? Once again we see what it is to deal with someone who has such high office and such thin skin. Just the notion of turbulence that might be seen around the world seems to be enough to scare him off. If he cant bomb it or tweet against it, the cupboard of responses seems bare.

    But, for the more important message, look to ourselves. It is easy to question the efficacy of protest. Millions marched against the war in Iraq, but couldnt stop it. Millions more marched against Brexit and cuts in the NHS. There is rarely such a direct link to be drawn between public action and response from those with power, but each public protest speaks to the strength and tenor of opinion. Every one sets out a position and raises the stakes. Here the stakes became too high for a brittle, image-conscious president in Washington. What do we want? Not Trump. When do we want him? Never.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/11/trump-scared-uk-protest-us-president

    ‘Alt-right’ Portland rally sees skirmishes with counter-protesters

    Far-right and anti-fascist groups face off with each other and law enforcement, a little over a week after two men died in a racially charged stabbing

    A much-anticipated alt-right rally in Portland, Oregon has ended in police using stun grenades and tear gas against the most militant segment of a counter-protest.

    At 3.30pm, police began pushing antifascist or antifa activists out of Chapman Square, just across from the rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza, in downtown Portland. Officers discharged grenades and gas as missiles were thrown. Portland police said on Twitter that they had closed the park due to criminal behavior including the use of bricks, mortar and other projectiles.

    As the antifascists were pushed out, alt-right activists interrupted their schedule of speakers to rush to the edge of Schrunk Plaza and taunt them. Police said they had confiscated makeshift weapons and shields from protesters in Chapman Square, and said that at around 2pm protesters there launched marbles and other projectiles towards Schrunk Plaza.

    Hours before, as the opposing activists gathered, tensions in the city were high, a little over a week after two men were killed and one wounded in a stabbing on city transportation.

    Jeremy Christian, 35, was charged in the attack, in which Rick Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, were killed after they intervened to help two young women who were the target of racial abuse. Christian was found to have expressed far-right views and to have attended a similar free speech rally in the city in April.

    Pro-Trump
    Pro-Trump demonstrators in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Portland mayor Ted Wheeler sought to block Sundays event, while on Saturday the leader of the Oath Keepers militia organisation told the Guardian members of his group were on their way to the city, to support and if necessary defend the rightwing protesters.

    In the event, the alt-right rally was surrounded on three sides by separate counter-protests. Antifa activists occupied Chapman Square, to the south of the plaza. Portland United Against Hate, organized by 70 community and political groups, occupied the forecourt and sidewalk outside City Hall to the west. To the east, a protest organized by labor groups occupied the street outside a federal building.

    At the City Hall rally, Seemab Hussein of the Oregon Council on Islamic Relations, a rally sponsor, said he wasnt surprised to see an alt-right gathering in the city.

    Its part of Portland, he said, its part of Oregon, its part of society. He added that he didnt take seriously disavowals of the racist politics of older far-right movements.

    Antifa
    These guys are mostly not interested in free speech, theyre interested in fighting us, said an antifa activist. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

    I dont think they actually moved away from that, he said. Its the same ball of yarn the hate, the prejudice, the violence. It just finds a new victim. If its not Muslims, its immigrants. He was heartened, he said, to see so many Portlanders show up to oppose the rally.

    All told, there were some 3,000 counter-protesters and only a few hundred at the free speech rally, where Kyle Based Stickman Chapman, who became a movement hero after physically attacking antifascists in Berkeley, California addressed the crowd. So did Joey Gibson, the organizer of the event. On the fringes, Pat Based Spartan Washington, a so-called alt-right celebrity, held an impromptu press conference.

    I believe in freedom of speech, he said. Our speakers have a right to say what they want, and not be exposed to this shit across the street. I am definitely willing to use violence to make sure my family is safe and my patriot family is safe. But do I want it? Not necessarily. Until antifa learns not to use violence God, I hate them. I look over there and I just want to smash.

    An
    Pat Washington, an alt-right supporter, in Portland. Photograph: Jason Wilson/the Guardian

    Members of the Oath Keepers and another patriot militia group, the Three Percenters, were present, identifiable by their insignia. Also present were members of the Proud Boys, associated with Vice founder Gavin McInnes and identifiable by their uniform Fred Perry T-shirts, and members of Warriors for Freedom, a group led by Gibson.

    Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes gave a late afternoon speech, referring to growing links between established rightwing groups and internet subcultures.

    We just went to Boston not too long ago, Rhodes said, and it was run by 4chan kids who put the rally on. They were standing there with pale skin, cos they dont go outside too much, but they had homemade shields in their hands and they were there. Its my job as a paratrooper veteran to teach those kids everything I know.

    Tusitala Tiny Toese, a member of Warriors for Freedom, told the Guardian he was present to stand for free speech.

    If you look all around America, he said, theyre trying to take away free speech silently. He also said that the group had ejected Jeremy Christian from the 29 April Portland rally. We heard what he was doing, he said, we heard he was doing [Nazi] salutes, and we said we dont like that, so we told him, you gotta leave.

    Earlier in the day, as protesters gathered, two members of the Rose City Antifa group, wearing masks, spoke to the Guardian. Weve got hopes for what we want to happen and were preparing for the worst, one said, adding that their goals were being here, being a visible opposition.

    These guys are mostly not interested in free speech, theyre interested in fighting us, the activist said. If they come over here, were going to respond in self-defense, but our plan is not to take that path. Our main goal is the defense of the community, and to reveal their actions for what they are: fascist street violence.

    An
    An activist makes a far-right hand signal. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

    At one point Brian Fife, an alt-right protester, walked up to Chapman Square in an attempt to speak. He was surrounded and drowned out with air horns. Earlier, on the grass at Schrunk Plaza, Fife, who said he ran a small business in Salem, Oregon, said Jeremy Christian did everything right up until the point he started killing people.

    I do not support killing people, he said, I dont think anyone does. But calling out the changing elements of our culture, I think thats something I wish more of us would do.

    As police and DHS officers dressed in riot gear kept the groups apart, the rally passed without full-blooded confrontation between protesters. Police also announced that any movement between Chapman Square and Schrunk Plaza would be considered a criminal act. The plaza was cordoned off with yellow tape and police SUVs partially blocked traffic. Before the decision to clear Chapman Square, a small number of arrests were made.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/04/portland-oregon-alt-right-rally-antifa

    Paris mayor demands black feminist festival that ‘prohibits’ white people be banned

    Anne Hidalgo says organisers of the Nyansapo Festival in the capital could be prosecuted because most of the event space would for black women only

    Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has called for a black feminist festival in the French capital to be banned, saying it was prohibited to white people.

    The first edition of the Nyansapo Festival, due to run from July 28 to 30 at a cultural centre in Paris, bills itself as an event rooted in black feminism, activism, and on (a) European scale.

    Four-fifths of the festival area will be set aside as a non-mixed space for black women, according to its website in French.

    Another space will be a non-mixed area for black people regardless of gender. Another space would be open to all.

    The English version of the site does not use the word non-mixed, but reserved.

    Hidalgo said on Twitter that she firmly condemned the organisation of this event, prohibited to white people.

    I am asking for this festival to be banned, Hidalgo said, adding she also reserved the right to prosecute the organisers for discrimination.

    Police prefect Michel Delpuech said in a statement that police had not been advised about the event by Sunday evening.

    But, Delpuech added, the police would ensure the rigorous compliance of the laws, values, and principles of the republic.

    French anti-racist and anti-semitism organisations strongly condemned the festival.

    SOS Racisme described the event as a mistake, even an abomination, because it wallows in ethnic separation, whereas anti-racism is a movement which seeks to go beyond race.

    The International League against Racism and Antisemitism said Rosa Parks would be turning in her grave, a reference to the American civil rights icon.

    Wallerand de Saint-Just, the regional head of Marine Le Pens National Front party, had challenged Hidalgo on Friday to explain how the city was putting on an event promoting a concept that is blatantly racist and anti-republican.

    The cultural centre La Generale, where the event was to be hosted, and the collective Mwasi, which organised the event, said Sunday they were the target of a disinformation campaign and of fake news orchestrated by the foulest far right.

    We are saddened to see certain antiracist associations letting themselves be manipulaed like this, according to a statement posted on the Generale website.

    A decolonisation summer camp in the northeastern French city of Reims elicited similar outrage last year, as it billed itself as a training seminar on antiracism reserved for victims of institutional racism or racialised minorities excluding by default white people.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/29/paris-mayor-demands-black-feminist-festival-prohibits-white-people-banned-nyansapo

    Taiwan’s same-sex marriage ruling could cement its place as Asia’s liberal beacon

    Landmark court case this week is likely to determine the success or failure of draft laws currently before parliament

    Chi Chia-wei will find out on Wednesday if his decades long fight to make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage has been a success.

    Chi, 59, a pioneering Taiwanese gay rights activist, is the celebrated face behind one of the most controversial legal cases the island democracy has seen in recent years, where 14 judges must rule if the civil code, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

    The constitutional courts landmark ruling will not only determine the success or failure of draft new parliamentary laws to introduce marriage equality, but could cement Taiwans reputation as a beacon of liberalism in a region where the LGBT community faces increasing persecution.

    Chi, an equal rights campaigner since he first came out as a gay teenager in 1975, remains pragmatic about making civil rights history. If it doesnt work out this time, Ill keep on fighting for the people, and for human rights, he said in an interview with The Guardian.

    But he is determined that one day, the fight will be won.

    Somebody has to do it. I dont want to see any more people commit suicide because they dont have marriage equality, he said.

    Last October the suspected suicide of French professor, Jacques Picoux, who was unable to marry his Taiwanese partner of 35 years, Tseng Ching-chao, became a rallying call for Chi and other LGBT activists.

    His struggle is also personal. Chis lawsuit, launched two years ago and supported by the municipal government in the capital, Taipei, is the latest of several attempts to get legal recognition for his 30 year relationship with his partner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

    In 1986, when the nation was still under martial law, Chi was imprisoned for five months after submitting his first petition asking for gay marriage to be recognised.

    As a flag bearer for equality, he hopes to inspire other LGBT activists fighting a crackdown across Asia.

    On the eve of Taiwans court ruling, two gay men face a public caning in Indonesia. In South Korea, the military has been accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against gay recruits. In Bangladesh, 27 men were arrested last week on suspicion of being gay, a criminal offence.

    Back in Taiwan, the political stakes of Wednesdays decision are also high.

    When President Tsai Ing-wens ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed the first draft of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in December, it prompted a fierce conservative backlash.

    The issue has split Taiwanese society and vocal protests from a coalition of religious and right-wing family groups have caused many legislators to have second thoughts.

    The fate of the legislation, soon to face a second reading, now lies in the hands of the court, believes Yu Mei-nu, the DPP parliamentarian who drafted it.

    If the court ruled clearly in support of same-sex marriage and President Tsai offered her unequivocal support, it would embolden wavering legislators to vote in favour of the new laws, she argued.

    If the grand justices make a decision that is not very clear, and it depends on a legislative yuan [parliament] vote, then it will be difficult. I think most legislators will abstain, she said.

    We want her (Tsai) to be braver. If she can come out and say yes I support it then it will be passed.

    Ahead of her election last year, Tsai voiced her support for marriage equality in a Facebook video. In the face of love, everyone is equal, she said.

    But as she marked the first anniversary of her inauguration this weekend with low public approval ratings, Tsai faced criticism from all sides over her handling of gay marriage.

    Its a little bit depressing for us. Before the election, she was really pro-gay rights. But now she has kind of disappeared, said student Vic Chiang, 23, at a Taipei rally last week on the International Day Against Homophobia.

    Meanwhile, Robin Chen, a spokesman for the Coalition For Happiness of Our Next Generation, which links support for gay marriage with increased HIV infections, criticised the government for rushing the laws through.

    The majority of the population does not know whats happening, he said. We need to discuss things on different levels because family is the foundation of society.

    His fears were shared by Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference, who believes the court will likely back gay marriage. There is no debate, he said. Its a one-sided game.

    Nerves are frayed ahead of the ruling, with both sides intending to demonstrate outside the court.

    But for

    Chi, the choice is simple.

    To legalise marriage would mean that Taiwans civil code and constitution will say that gay people are people, he said. If the law can be changed, Taiwans gay community will have human rights.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/22/taiwans-same-sex-marriage-court-ruling-asias-liberal-beacon

    Tim Pigott-Smith obituary

    Stage and screen actor best known for his role in the TV series The Jewel in the Crown

    The only unexpected thing about the wonderful actor Tim Pigott-Smith, who has died aged 70, was that he never played Iago or, indeed, Richard III. Having marked out a special line in sadistic villainy as Ronald Merrick in his career-defining, Bafta award-winning performance in The Jewel in the Crown (1984), Granada TVs adaptation for ITV of Paul Scotts Raj Quartet novels, he built a portfolio of characters both good and bad who were invariably presented with layers of technical accomplishment and emotional complexity.

    Tim
    Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role of Mike Bartletts King Charles III at the Almeida theatre in 2014. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

    He emerged as a genuine leading actor in Shakespeare, contemporary plays by Michael Frayn in Frayns Benefactors (1984) he was a malicious, Iago-like journalist undermining a neighbouring college chums ambitions as an architect and Stephen Poliakoff, American classics by Eugene ONeill and Edward Albee, and as a go-to screen embodiment of high-ranking police officers and politicians, usually served with a twist of lemon and a side order of menace and sarcasm.

    He played a highly respectable King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011, but that performance was eclipsed, three years later, by his subtle, affecting and principled turn in the title role of Mike Bartletts King Charles III (soon to be seen in a television version) at the Almeida, in the West End and on Broadway, for which he received nominations in both the Olivier and Tony awards. The play, written in Shakespearean iambics, was set in a futuristic limbo, before the coronation, when Charles refuses to grant his royal assent to a Labour prime ministers press regulation bill.

    The interregnum cliffhanger quality to the show was ideal for Pigott-Smiths ability to simultaneously project the spine and the jelly of a character, and he brilliantly suggested an accurate portrait of the future king without cheapening his portrayal of him. Although not primarily a physical actor, like Laurence Olivier, he was aware of his attributes, once saying that the camera does something to my eyes, particularly on my left side in profile, something to do with the eye being quite low and being able to see some white underneath the pupil. It was this physical accident, not necessarily any skill, he modestly maintained, which gave him a menacing look on film and television, as if I am thinking more than one thing.

    Born in Rugby, Tim was the only child of Harry Pigott-Smith, a journalist, and his wife Margaret (nee Goodman), a keen amateur actor, and was educated at Wyggeston boys school in Leicester and when his father was appointed to the editorship of the Herald in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1962 King Edward VI grammar school, where Shakespeare was a pupil. Attending the Royal Shakespeare theatre, he was transfixed by John Barton and Peter Halls Wars of the Roses production, and the actors: Peggy Ashcroft, with whom he would one day appear in The Jewel in the Crown, Ian Holm and David Warner. He took a parttime job in the RSCs paint shop.

    At Bristol University he gained a degree in English, French and drama (1967), and at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school he graduated from the training course (1969) alongside Jeremy Irons and Christopher Biggins as acting stage managers in the Bristol Old Vic company. He joined the Prospect touring company as Balthazar in Much Ado with John Neville and Sylvia Syms and then as the Player King and, later, Laertes to Ian McKellens febrile Hamlet. Back with the RSC he played Posthumus in Bartons fine 1974 production of Cymbeline and Dr Watson in William Gillettes Sherlock Holmes, opposite John Woods definitive detective, at the Aldwych and on Broadway. He further established himself in repertory at Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham.

    Tim
    Tim Pigott-Smith as the avuncular businessman Ken Lay in Lucy Prebbles Enron at the Minerva theatre, Chichester, in 2009. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

    He was busy in television from 1970, appearing in two Doctor Who sagas, The Claws of Axos (1971) and The Masque of Mandragora (1976), as well as in the first of the BBCs adaptations of Elizabeth Gaskells North and South (1975, as Frederick Hale; in the second, in 2004, he played Hales father, Richard). His first films were Jack Golds Aces High (1976), adapted by Howard Barker from RC Sherriffs Journeys End, and Tony Richardsons Joseph Andrews (1977). His first Shakespeare leads were in the BBCs Shakespeare series Angelo in Measure for Measure and Hotspur in Henry IV Part One (both 1979).

    A long association with Hall began at the National Theatre in 1987, when he played a coruscating half-hour interrogation scene with Maggie Smith in Halls production of Coming in to Land by Poliakoff; he was a Dostoeyvskyan immigration officer, Smith a desperate, and despairing, Polish immigrant. In Halls farewell season of Shakespeares late romances in 1988, he led the company alongside Michael Bryant and Eileen Atkins, playing a clenched and possessed Leontes in The Winters Tale; an Italianate, jesting Iachimo in Cymbeline; and a gloriously drunken Trinculo in The Tempest (he played Prospero for Adrian Noble at the Theatre Royal, Bath, in 2012).

    The Falstaff on television when he played Hotspur was Anthony Quayle, and he succeeded this great actor, whom he much admired as director of the touring Compass Theatre in 1989, playing Brutus in Julius Caesar and Salieri in Peter Shaffers Amadeus. When the Arts Council cut funding to Compass, he extended his rogues gallery with a sulphurous Rochester in Fay Weldons adaptation of Jane Eyre, on tour and at the Playhouse, in a phantasmagorical production by Helena Kaut-Howson, with Alexandra Mathie as Jane (1993); and, back at the NT, as a magnificent, treacherous Leicester in Howard Davies remarkable revival of Schillers Mary Stuart (1996) with Isabelle Huppert as a sensual Mary and Anna Massey a bitterly prim Elizabeth.

    In that same National season, he teamed with Simon Callow (as Face) and Josie Lawrence (as Doll Common) in a co-production by Bill Alexander for the Birmingham Rep of Ben Jonsons trickstering, two-faced masterpiece The Alchemist; he was a comically pious Subtle in sackcloth and sandals. He pulled himself together as a wryly observant Larry Slade in one of the landmark productions of the past 20 years: ONeills The Iceman Cometh at the Almeida in 1998, transferring to the Old Vic, and to Broadway, with Kevin Spacey as the salesman Hickey revisiting the last chance saloon where Pigott-Smith propped up the bar with Rupert Graves, Mark Strong and Clarke Peters in Davies great production.

    He and Davies combined again, with Helen Mirren and Eve Best, in a monumental NT revival (designed by Bob Crowley) of ONeills epic Mourning Becomes Electra in 2003. Pigott-Smith recycled his ersatz Agamemnon role of the returning civil war hero, Ezra Mannon, as the real Agamemnon, fiercely sarcastic while measuring a dollop of decency against weasel expediency, in Euripides Hecuba at the Donmar Warehouse in 2004. In complete contrast, his controlled but hilarious Bishop of Lax in Douglas Hodges 2006 revival of Philip Kings See How They Run at the Duchess suggested he had done far too little outright comedy in his career.

    Tim
    Tim Pigott-Smith as King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

    Television roles after The Jewel in the Crown included the titular chief constable, John Stafford, in The Chief (1990-93) and the much sleazier chief inspector Frank Vickers in The Vice (2001-03). On film, he showed up in The Remains of the Day (1993); Paul Greengrasss Bloody Sunday (2002), a harrowing documentary reconstruction of the protest and massacre in Derry in 1972; as Pegasus, head of MI7, in Rowan Atkinsons Johnny English (2003) and the foreign secretary in the Bond movie Quantum of Solace (2008).

    In the last decade of his life he achieved an amazing roster of stage performances, including a superb Henry Higgins, directed by Hall, in Pygmalion (2008); the avuncular, golf-loving entrepreneur Ken Lay in Lucy Prebbles extraordinary Enron (2009), a play that proved there was no business like big business; the placatory Tobias, opposite Penelope Wilton, in Albees A Delicate Balance at the Almeida in 2011; and the humiliated George, opposite his Hecuba, Clare Higgins, in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf, at Bath.

    At the start of this year he was appointed OBE. His last television appearance came as Mr Sniggs, the junior dean of Scone College, in Evelyn Waughs Decline and Fall, starring Jack Whitehall. He had been due to open as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in Northampton prior to a long tour.

    Pigott-Smith was a keen sportsman, loved the countryside and wrote four short books, three of them for children.

    In 1972 he married the actor Pamela Miles. She survives him, along with their son, Tom, a violinist, and two grandchildren, Imogen and Gabriel.

    Timothy Peter Pigott-Smith, actor, born 13 May 1946; died 7 April 2017

    • This article was amended on 10 April 2017. Tim Pigott-Smiths early performance as Balthazar in Much Ado About Nothing was with the Prospect touring company rather than with the Bristol Old Vic.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/apr/09/tim-pigott-smith-obituary