Festive fun or racism? Dutch "Black Pete" row gets violent

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - An annual pre-Christmas festival in the Netherlands this weekend was marred by scuffles and arrests as rival groups demonstrated their views on a blackface character who traditionally accompanies the arrival of St. Nicholas.

Reuters November 19, 2018 00:05:29 IST
Festive fun or racism? Dutch "Black Pete" row gets violent

Festive fun or racism Dutch quotBlack Petequot row gets violent

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - An annual pre-Christmas festival in the Netherlands this weekend was marred by scuffles and arrests as rival groups demonstrated their views on a blackface character who traditionally accompanies the arrival of St. Nicholas.

Opponents of Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, say the custom of white people donning black face paint, red lipstick and frizzy wigs is racist. But a majority of Dutch people, with fond childhood memories of the start of the gift-giving season every Nov. 17, see it as harmless fun.

This year's celebrations came days after a court rejected an attempt by anti-racism groups to ban Black Pete from state television.

Supporters of Black Pete attacked several protesters in Rotterdam, where activists had hung a banner reading "Black Pete is Racism" from the city's Erasmus Bridge.

Confrontations in several other cities were prevented by police, who themselves came under attack from pro-Pete groups.

Football supporters in Eindhoven threw eggs and beer cans at police and anti-Pete protesters. Anti-Pete demonstrations in Nijmegen and Zwolle were cancelled after mayors said they could not guarantee protesters' safety.

A group of 40 pro-Pete demonstrators were detained in Tilburg on Sunday as police said they were out looking for a fight. The biggest ceremony, a nationally-televised arrival in Zaanstad, went ahead without incident amid heavy security.

Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said pro-Pete groups who had committed acts of violence would be prosecuted. There were reports of "provocations" but no violence by anti-Pete protesters.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion," Grapperhaus said. "But public disorder, throwing things - the police will always act to stop that."

In Dutch lore, St. Nicholas travels once a year from Spain on a steamboat laden with presents, accompanied by dozens of helpers who traditionally have their faces painted black. Together, children are told, they travel the land for two weeks, handing out cookies and presents, finishing with a night of gifts and poems on Dec. 5.

In Amsterdam, St. Nicholas, "Sinterklaas" in Dutch, arrived on Sunday with 350 helper Petes wearing only smudges on their faces, rather than full black face paint: one variant of the story says Pete is black with soot from climbing down chimneys to deliver presents.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

Guinea president 'captured', govt dissolved, claim army putschists'; attack on presidential palace repulsed, say authorities
World

Guinea president 'captured', govt dissolved, claim army putschists'; attack on presidential palace repulsed, say authorities

Reports suggest that they captured President Alpha Conde and dissolved the government, bust the ground situation remains unclear

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up
News & Analysis

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The price of cryptocurrencies plunged and crypto trading was delayed on Tuesday, a day in which El Salvador ran into snags as the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. Shares of blockchain-related firms also fell as crypto stocks were hit by trading platform outages. But the major focus was on El Salvador, where the government had to temporarily unplug a digital wallet to cope with demand.

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field
News & Analysis

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field

By Joseph White and Sanjana Shivdas (Reuters) -The head of Apple Inc's car project, Doug Field, is going to work for Ford Motor Co to lead the automaker's advanced technology and embedded systems efforts, a hiring coup for Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley.