90 arrested amid protest over ‘racist’ Dutch ‘Black Pete’ festival
On Saturday, "Sixty people were arrested for demonstrating in
unauthorized areas, and 30 for disturbing the peace" during
children’s festivities, police spokeswoman Yvette Verboon told
The demonstrators in Gouda were divided into two camps, both for
and against the ‘Black Pete’ character. “Arrests
were made on both sides," Verboon said.
Scuffles between people supporting and protesting the historical Christmas figure began when Saint Nicholas came out on to the balcony of the main square and protesters held up a banner, saying: "Black Pete Racism".
The racial debate has been gaining traction in the Netherlands. Many have argued that the traditional Christmas figure, known as Saint Nicholas’ sidekick, is a colonial racist stereotype.
— Martin Bloem (@mwbloem) November 15, 2014
‘Black Pete’ is usually played by a white person, who
paints his face black, lips bright red and dons an Afro-style
"Some black kids feel hurt at this time of year," said one protester. "It's a real shame that in a civilized country, in 2014, you still have to defend equality,” a man at the procession who gave his name as Knoledge told AFP.
If somehow you didn't see the racism of the Low Countries' Black Pete "tradition" before, this should make it clear. http://t.co/LBfjlSthk0
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) November 14, 2014
"Our culture should not be damaged from on high. This law must protect Black Pete.” - Dutch Freedom Party spokesman not understanding irony
— Luke Bradley (@LukeBrizazzle) November 16, 2014
Meanwhile, supporters of ‘Black Pete’ argue that the figure is
part of their cultural heritage, making him an integral part of
Christmas celebrations. In terms of blackened faces, they adopt
the view that Black Pete just came out of the chimney after
delivering gifts, which is why his face is pitch black.
"This is how I celebrate, how my grandmother and grandfather and parents celebrated, and I don't think it's racist,” said one of the supporters of the tradition.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed deep disappointed at the violence. "Everyone can talk about Black Pete's color but you can't disturb a children's party like that," he told NOS.
Earlier, Rutte said the community should resolve this issue, not
politicians. "Personally, I think he can stay black. But this
is a matter for the community. It is not a task for
Local policymakers have been discussing the idea of trying out other Black Pete versions, including orange, yellow and even rainbow.