Man threatens Zwarte Piet opponents with suicide bomb attack

A 49-year-old man from The Hague was arrested on Monday after publishing a social media post in which he threatened to attack activists with a bomb by blowing himself up as a way of shutting down what he called the "anti-Zwarte Piet movement." He emphasized in the message on Facebook that he "is not joking," and said he wanted to carry out the attack to defend the Sinterklaas tradition as it has been celebrated "for 100 years."

Police said the man posted the threat on Facebook over the weekend as a response to another post on the platform. Multiple people reported the threat to the police, who launched an investigation. The post was also submitted to the Public Prosecutor, which ruled that given the seriousness of the threat, the person behind the post should be arrested, the police said.

"I am going to put a bomb around my waist and I will be the first white people to blow themselves up to stand up for our traditions which has no association with racism," the man said. "You make it a racial thing," he said in reference to those outspoken against the blackface appearance of the Zwarte Piet character, and accused them of ruining the party for the small children who are "looking forard to it. Stop it! Or do your thing, and I will stand next to you," he said continuing the bomb threat. "And game over!!!" he continued.

"It is a children's party and has nothing to do with color and your anti Zwarte Piet movement," he went on. "So challenge me, and the last thing you and the demonstrators will see on December 5 is my face. And that I promise."

The Investigation led police to the 49-year-old man from The Hague. No explosives were found in his home. He confessed to posting the threat as a response. Police said he regretted this reaction and was shocked by the commotion his post caused. 

The suspect was still in custody on Tuesday, with an arraignment hearing set for Thursday.

Despite the non-violent protests by organizations like Kick Out Zwarte Piet, and the sit-down conversations they have tried to hold on the issue, the debate around the Sinterklaas celebration and the blackface appearance of character Zwarte Piet has been marred this month by violence and threats carried out by opponents to change in the Netherlands.

Police said they noticed "strong statements" made by both supporters and opponents of blackface and Zwarte Piet on social media. "As long as no criminal line is crossed, everyone can give their opinion", the police said. The post by the Den Haag man, which "threatened with an attack in which innocent victims could fall", crossed that line. 

On Friday, people attacked a group of anti-Zwarte Piet activists gathered in a former school building in The Hague to discuss their activism against the use of blackface and racist caricatures in the Netherlands. Responding police officers caught five people, who were initially accused of attempted arson, destruction of the building's windows, and smashing the cars parked on the street. Four of the five males, aged 13 to 37, were released within two days of the incident.

On Sunday, Hengelo city councilors canceled a Monday meeting with protest organization Kick Out Zwarte Piet, because pro-blackface supporters threatened a mass demonstration where the discussion was to be held. Due to the attack in The Hague on Friday, Hengelo politicians feared a riot would take place in their city.

Last week a Dutch court had to rule on a lawsuit filed by an Amsterdam man who demanded that the permit for the national Sinterklaas arrival party in Apeldoorn be revoked because there will be no blackface Zwarte Pieten in the party. The man argued that the disappearance of blackface Zwarte Piet makes him no longer want to have many children, which leads to fewer births in his "white, Christian population" and makes him feel "a victim of genocide". The court ruled against him.

Sinterklaas will make his national arrival in Apeldoorn on Saturday. 

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