Woman faces rape threats after making Zwarte Piet complaint to Hema

Sooty Piet (Picture: Twitter/@Warda_E) chimney piet. (Chimney Piet (Picture: Twitter/@Warda_E))

A Twente woman received hundreds of threats and insults on social media after pointing out to a Hema store in Nijverdal that they were using the traditional Zwarte Piet, instead of the Chimney Pieten the chain decided on. Some of the responses to her Twitter post include wishes that she is raped, suggestions that she jump in front of a train and hopes that she disappears through the chimney of a crematorium.

The woman, Sandra, told Tubantia that she received some 3 thousand threats and insults since Sunday, and that she is shocked and frightened by the comments. "I've been blogging for a few years and I have never experienced something so violent", she said to the news site, adding that she definitely did not see this coming. "I only reminded Hema about the policy they announced. They would only use Chimney Pieten this year." Chimney Pieten are Sinterklaas' helpers that only have soot marks on their faces, instead of the traditional blackface makeup.

According to Sandra, these reactions crossed all boundaries. "I think it makes clear that we have a major problem in the Netherlands. If the color of a fantasy character leads to death threats, what kind of society are we?"

Hema responded that the blackface Zwarte Piet decorations will be removed, resulting in Hema employees also being threatened. The department store pressed charges. "We understand that there is an intense social debate, but we do not tolerate our employees having the most terrible things flung at them. Therefore we decided to go to the police", a spokesperson for the department store said to newspaper AD.