Utrecht district cancels Sinterklaas party after threats over non-blackface Piet

The Utrecht district of Zuilen decided to cancel its Sinterklaas arrival party, scheduled for Saturday. The foundation in charge of organizing the party received serious threats because it decided to switch to so-called Chimney Pieten - Piet characters with soot marks on their faces instead of blackface makeup as the character is traditionally portrayed, Miranda Spies of the Gemeenschap Zuilen foundation said to AD.

The threats were anonymously sent via social media, Spies said. The police and municipality have received no reports of the threats. "Because the threats cannot be demonstrated - they do not seem to have been saved - we cannot investigate this further", a spokesperson for mayor Jan van Zanen said to the newspaper. "That makes it impossible to assess the origin of the threats and how seriously they should be taken." He added that the organization also failed to apply for the necessary permits in time.

Spies agreed that there were "organizational problems" with regard to the permit application, but said that the threats were the main reason the foundation decided to cancel the event. "We do not want to take any risks with regard to safety, it is about hundreds of visitors after all", Spies said to the newspaper. "We assume that the threats do not come from our own neighborhood, but what if people put deed to word and - as they say - come here with dozens of Zwarte Pieten to disturb our arrival party? It is a children's party, but how safe are the children? We cannot guarantee their safety. We cannot put a fence around Zuilen."

Zuilen decided to switch to only Chimney Pieten this year to follow the line of the arrival party in Utrecht city center. "Also based on the idea that it should be a party for everyone. If someone feels bad, is sad or is bullied because there are only Zwarte Pieten, you have to take that into account." Spies is shocked by the commotion this caused. "It is very intense to experience. If there is a threat that our volunteers will be visited or it is said that they know where we live, it goes too far. Satisfying everyone never works, but we thought the choice for the Chimney Piet would be a good compromise. Children, the group this is all about, doesn't care what color Piet is, as long as they get presents, right?"