Protesters across the Netherlands have disrupted Christmas parades put on for young children, claiming the ‘black-face’ costumes of Santa’s helpers are racist.
Children lined the streets to see parades of Saint Nicholas handing out gifts, and Santa’s black-faced elves, known as ‘Black Petes’.
But the day descended into chaos as the parades were mired by clashes between far-left protesters and far-right hooligans around the country.
Young children in towns and cities can watch the arrival of Saint Nicholas, along with his helpers, in celebrations held every November.
Protesters against Black Petes, known as Zwarte Piets in the Netherlands, have claimed their costumes are racist because the white actors involved ‘black up’.
some of the violence was also caused by football hooligans. They confronted a Kick Out Black Pete demonstration in the Dutch town of Eindhoven, shown above. Protesters across the Netherlands have disrupted Christmas celebrations put on for young children, claiming the ‘black-face’ costumes of Santa’s helpers are racist
Those portraying Zwarte Piet put on blackface make-up and colourful attire, in addition to curly wigs and light red lipstick to depict African features.
In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, disappointed revellers went home because of the noisy anti-blackface protesters.
In the city of Maas, the protesters left their designated demonstration boxes and witnesses spoke of ‘total choas’, De Telegraaf reports.
But some of the violence was also caused by football hooligans. They confronted a Kick Out Black Pete demonstration in the Dutch town of Eindhoven.
They threw eggs and cans of beer at the demonstrators, and six people were arrested.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had to appeal for calm on Friday amid scattered protests all over the country.
The protesters held signs reading ‘party for every child’ in Eindhoven. Hooligans threw eggs and cans of beer at the demonstrators, and six people were arrested
Black Petes pose during the arrival of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) in Monnickendam, Netherlands, on Saturday. White people often daub their faces with black paint when they dress up to play the character
Just this week, Black Pete was the subject of a legal ruling which was postponed on a technicality.
Protesters had tried to ban Black Pete from appearing on state television.
However, judge Antoon Schotman said the filing had been lodged too close to Christmas to be heard in time.
In their coverage of this year’s Christmas parades, Dutch state television said the character of Zwarte Piet would this year only have soot smudges on his face for his official arrival.
The broadcaster said: ‘[We] respect both tradition and change, but it is our public duty as an independent public broadcaster to reflect these changes in society’.
‘Therefore the Black Petes this year will have soot on their hands and faces because they came through the chimney.
They will have different types of hair and will not be wearing golden earrings.’
The elf is known as Zwarte Piet in the folklore of the Low Countries, including Belgium and Luxembourg.
Black Pete is a polarising figure and right-hand man of Santa Claus in the country. He is known as Zwarte Piet in European folklore.
The character first appeared in an 1850 book by Amsterdam schoolteacher Jan Schenkman. Traditionally, Zwarte Piet is black because he is a Moor from Spain.
Critics say his Afro hair, black skin, red lips and earrings are a reminder of the era when the Netherlands exploited slaves, notably in Suriname.
But many Dutch people strongly defend the traditional Black Pete, with the most common explanation being that his face is black because of soot from the chimneys he descends to bring presents to excited children.
Black Petes interact with children during the arrival of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) in Monnickendam, Netherlands on Saturday. Protesters had tried to ban Black Pete from appearing on state television
Arrival of Sinterklaas in the city of Kampen on the steam boat with Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) standing on the boat on Saturday. Children lined the streets to see parades of Saint Nicholas handing out gifts, but Santa’s black-faced elves, known as ‘Black Petes’, saw arrests and clashes between far-left and far-right groups around the country