Netherlands cannot support blackface Zwarte Piet advises Council of State

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

The government must not interfere in the appearance of Sinterklaas' following, and hence not that of Zwarte Piet, the Council of State said on Tuesday. The Netherlands' main advisory body therefore advises the Dutch government to reject a PVV proposal to ban municipalities from cooperating with Sinterklaas events in which the Pieten are not black.

According to the Council, the only role government and municipalities must play in this matter is to ensure that cultural events organized by citizens are managed properly and make sure that public order and safety are maintained. "They have no no involvement in the content of such events."

The PVV's proposal wants to interfere in the content. According to the council, "it does not define the boundaries of the playing filed, but decides for the citizens what their game must look like. That does not fit in a democratic state." The proposal wants to "freeze" the Sinterklaas tradition, but the Council finds that living folk traditions are not static. "If society changes, they change with it."

The Council also finds that the proposal is not compatible with freedom of expression. Traditionally events like Sinterklaas and carnival don't fall under this fundamental right, but according to the Council the Piet-controversy is increasingly giving the choice of a Piet with a certain color more meaning as a position or opinion. "Deviating Sinterklaas celebrations therefore come under the scope of freedom of expression."

For these reasons the Council of State advises the Dutch government to throw the so-called Piet-law in the trash.

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