National Sinterklaas arrival maybe without protests this year

For the first time in years, Sinterklaas' national arrival may happen without any protests for or against controversial character Zwarte Piet. The national arrival is happening in Dokkum on November 18th. By Wednesday night the municipality of Dongeradeel, which covers Dokkum, received no applications for demonstrations, AD reports.

There is still time to apply for a permit to demonstrate, and if any requests are made, the municipality will "definitely" honor it, a spokesperson said to AD. The spokesperson added that their "heart is full expectation" that this year may not have any protests.

Pro-Zwarte Piet group De Nederlandse Volks-Unie (NVU) is not planning a demonstration, spokesperson Constant Kusters said to the newspaper. "We decided not to this year. The discussion became a bit dull, everyone is sticking to his own viewpoints. And for many people, Dokkum is a two hour drive away."

Kick Out Zwarte Piet, on the anti-Zwarte Piet side, did not want to give AD a definite answer on whether or not they are planning a protest this year. But according to the newspaper, the group was much less active this year than in previous years. 

The national Sinterklaas arrival in the Netherlands was the venue for protests from both sides of the Zwarte Piet debate over the past years. Protesters against Zwarte Piet believe the character in his blackface makeup is a racist stereotype and a symbol of slavery. The pro-Zwarte Piet group believes the character is a Dutch tradition worth protecting. 

Last year the NVU protested at the national arrival in Maassluis. Kick Out Zwarte Piet was also on their way to the arrival, but ended up in Rotterdam. The police arrested some 200 activists. In 2014 around 90 protesters were arrested at the national arrival in Gouda.

In Nijmegen last week, a discussion evening about Zwarte Piet and racism ended in a brawl between supporters and opponents. The police had to intervene.

The first episode of Sinterklaasjournaal will air on NTR on November 13th. This year the show will not have any multi-colored Piets, media director Willemijn Francissen announced last month. How the kids' show handles the controversial character is a que for many municipalities on how to arrange their own Sinterklaas celebrations. According to Francissen, the Sinterklaasjournaal will go for "a kind of 50 shades of grey" this year. 

Dokkum expects 25 thousand people at the national arrival, according to AD.