Maastricht puts an end to blackface Zwarte Piets at the Sinterklaas arrival
Piets smeared with ash and soot will be the only Sinterklaas assistants at his arrival party in Maastricht. "Sint is pleased to report that his helpers can finally show their new appearance," the Sint Nicolaas Maastricht Arrival Committee wrote in a press statement on Wednesday. It is the first time that the Sinterklaas organizers in Maastricht have chosen to follow the national trend and refrain from being accompanied by Zwarte Piet, often performed by white actors in blackface makeup and costume.
Sinterklaas traditionally arrives in Maastricht earlier than the rest of the Netherlands. On Saturday, November 13, the saintly character will moor his boat at a jetty on the Maas between the Sint Servaasbrug and the Wilhelminabrug. Because of the state of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Annemarie Penn of Maastricht will not receive Sinterklaas on his arrival as usual. There will not be any activities at the jetty on the Kesselkade, as in previous years.
The driving tour through the city center will take place, and will be larger than in the past, and there are audiences allowed at the City Hall on the Markt and in the Brusselsepoort shopping center. There, children with a maximum of two adults can come and give Sinterklaas a fist bump. Face masks and coronavirus access passes will likely be required.
Kick Out Zwarte Piet previously announced a protest for Saturday the 13th in the Limburg city. However, now that Zwarte Piet is no longer participating, the organization has decided to cancel the demonstration, a spokesperson for KOZP told De Limburger newspaper. No one from KOZP was immediately available on Wednesday to provide a detailed explanation.
A year ago, a demonstration by KOZP led to violent riots in the city center of Maastricht. The small group of KOZP activists was attacked by about a thousand counter-protesters, including some who were rioting, who wanted to stick to the traditional appearance of Zwarte Piet. The police then had to evacuate the KOZP activists and take them to safety outside the center.
Reporting by ANP