Anti-blackface rallies set for 12 cities; Pro-blackface groups gather in Apeldoorn, Deventer

Sinterklaas Amsterdam 2
Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter)Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter)

Action group Kick Out Zwarte Piet is planning to protest in twelve different cities in November against the use of blackface makeup and costuming often adorned by white actors portraying Sinterklaas's helper. The activists consider Zwarte Piet in his traditional form a racist stereotype. On Thursday there were protests in Apeldoorn and Deventer calling for Zwarte Piet to remain in the blackface costume seen mainly over the last hundred years, and which some say is adhering to Dutch tradition.

Kick Out Zwarte Piet plans to rally in places where "no or unclear changes take place towards a party without Zwarte Piet", leader Jerry Afriyie said to NRC. They will protest at local Sinterklaas celebrations in Hoorn, Alkmaar, Heerhugowaard, Leeuwarden, Eindhoven, Groningen, The Hague, Den Bosch, Dordrecht, Almere, Nijmegen, and Willemstad on Curacao. 

On the other side of the Zwarte Piet controversy, around a hundred protesters gathered at the Deventer town hall on Thursday evening to protest for Zwarte Piet staying in his traditional form. These protesters want Zwarte Piet to "just stay black", according to RTV Oost.

The demonstration was prompted by the municipality of Deventer announcing that at least a third of the Pieten at the local Sinterklaas celebration should be so-called Chimney Pieten - with soot marks on their faces, instead of blackface makeup. The municipality said it would not subsidize the event if there are not enough Chimney Pieten, though withdrew that decision following strong criticism. The municipality now said that there must be enough 'alternative Pieten', but would not tell RTV Oost exactly what that means.

Thursday also saw a pro-Zwarte Piet protest at the city hall of Apeldoorn, where Sinterklaas will make his national arrival on November 16th. The organizers of the arrival and broadcaster NTR decided that Sinterklaas will only be accompanied by Chimney Pieten this year. But the Zwarte Pieten Actiegroep is vehemently against that, according to De Stentor. The action group hung a banner reading '95 percent want Zwarte Piet', translated from Dutch. But the banner was quickly removed, the newspaper writes.