Police arrest of Zwarte Piet protestors a mistake: report

The police in Dordrecht wrongly arrested two men in 2011 because they protested against Zwarte Piet at the arrival of Sinterklaas. The National Ombudsman declared their complaint against the police valid.

At the Sinterklaas arrival on November 12th, 2011, the men wore T-shirts with the slogan "Zwarte Piet is Racism" and were arrested for disrupting public order, according to the police officers. According to the Ombudsman, the police were not allowed to do so. Nor were they allowed to handcuff the one man while he was not resisting arrest.

The arrest of the two men, artist Quinsy Gario and rapper Cesare Kno'ledge, marks the beginning of public interest in the objections to the slavish appearance and behavior of Zwarte Piet. These concerns have led to heated discussions, legal proceedings and changes in the appearance of Zwarte Piet.

During the protesters' hearing it came out that the issue of skin color played a roll in the arrest. One of the officers asked Quinsy Gario: "What ethnicity are you that you want to draw attention to it?" and "Don't you see Sinterklaas as a piece of tradition?" According to the Ombudsman, the officer acted "contrary to professionalism".