Protests in support of an against the Dutch St Nicholas' controversial sidekick, Black Pete, were held across the Netherlands on Saturday as he arrived arrived at the. annual children’s party.
Named Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of St. Nicholas arrived on horseback at the nationally televised parade in the central city of Apeldoorn and was organised under heavy security. Thousands of children and their parents celebrated as an actor dressed as Sinterklaas and his helpers handed out candy, waves, and high fives to the joyous crowd.
— The Hague International Centre (@hague_intcentre) November 14, 2019
One key change, however, is that there were no 'Petes' in the traditional blackface at this arrival. In place of the divisive black makeup and red lips, organisers smeared dark "soot" to indicate they had been climbing down chimneys.
Hundreds of protestors demonstrating against Black Pete gathered in The Hague, where part of the official parade included full blackface Petes, in opposition to what they see as a racist caricature.
The crowd laid out messages reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Pete is Racism”, and “Stop Black Face”.
Mariam El Maslouhi, an activist against the Black Pete celebration, told the demonstrators that she hoped a protest next year will be unnecessary.
“The Netherlands has heard us, The Hague has heard us, Parliament has heard us”, she said.
While no violence broke out, police said in a tweet that some of the protesters were peacefully detained after refusing to specially designated areas established for the protestors.
According to Associate Press, Dutch media said that a leader of the Netherlands’ wing of the anti-immigration organisation PEGIDA was detained by police while wearing a Pete costume and blackface makeup.
Certain cities in the Netherlands, including the capital, Amsterdam, have dropped the use of blackface makeup in their Sinterklaas parades, which has led to angry responses from supporters of the character.
During the night, supporters of the black-faced depiction of the character canvassed posters which photoshopped the face of the leader of anti-Pete demonstrators onto a photo of Pete's original blackface depiction.
— Ruth 🇨🇩 (@cloudyorblue) November 8, 2019
A group of protesters vandalised cars and launched fireworks towards a venue where anti-Pete activists were convening in The Hague last week and on Thursday and Friday 3 people were arrested for making online threats towards the seasonal festival.
The celebration and image of Black Pete has garnered much controversy in recent years the it see's people don blackface makeup to dress up as the character across the country.
— Schtev🇨🇦 (@schtev69) September 19, 2019
Opponents claim that it depicts a racist stereotype and is long overdue for an update, while supporters defend the Christmas side kick who helps the Dutch version of Santa Claus, as part of Dutch children’s tradition.
Surveys have found that 88% of the Dutch population do not see the Black Pete character as racist and are happy with the original appearance.