Following U.S. Senator Hilary Clinton's Martin Luther King Day remarks about the House of Representatives being run like a "plantation," singer and activist Harry Belafonte compared the Department of Homeland Security south of the Border in the United States, to the Nazi Gestapo and called the U.S. President George W. Bush, a liar during a speech in New York in late-January 2006.
"We've come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended," Belafonte said in a speech to the annual meeting of the Arts Presenters Members Conference. "You can be arrested and not charged. You can be arrested and have no right to counsel."
"You can be arrested and not charged, you can be arrested and have no right to counsel," said Belafonte, who called U.S. President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" during a trip to Venezuela two weeks ago. Belafonte, 78, made that comment after a meeting with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Belafonte acknowledged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 demanded a response by the United States, but said the policies of the Bush administration were ill advised.
"Fascism is fascism. Terrorism is terrorism. Oppression is oppression," said Belafonte, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He added that Bush rose to power "somewhat dubiously and ... then lies to the people of this nation [United States], misleads them, mis-instructs, and then sends off hundreds of thousands of our own boys and girls to a foreign land that has not aggressed against us."
The Harlem-born Belafonte, who was raised in Jamaica, said his activism was inspired by an impoverished mother "who imbued in me that we should never capitulate to oppression."
Belafonte's words, part of a 45 minute speech on the role of the arts in a politically changing world, received roaring standing ovations, as reported by the Associated Press.
Harry Belafonte's daughter Shari, used to live in Toronto; and also hosted a TVOntario programme.