Groningen became the latest big city to move away from the blackface appearance of Sinterklaas helper Zwarte Piet, with an announcement on Wednesday that the city's Sinterklaas arrival party this year will only feature actors with soot-smears on their faces, or no makeup at all. Amsterdam was the first to make that decision back in 2016, and Rotterdam took the same position the next year. Haarlem and Hilversum followed suit in the years after.
Anti-racism action group Kick Out Zwarte Piet will protest throughout the year against the presence of blackface Zwarte Piet in the annual Sinterklaas celebrations this year. The group is planning actions every quarter, was decided at a meeting in the Willem Twee showroom in Den Bosch on Monday, RTL Nieuws reports.
The year 2019 was a busy one for the Netherlands, with elections and strikes, multiple high profile murders and shootings, and a summer full of heat records, severe storms and poisonous caterpillars. Here follows a review of the top ten stories of this year.
This morning parents across the Netherlands will be bringing their kids to school to celebrate Sinterklaas, Packjesavond and the saint's imminent return to Spain. Foundation Nederland Wordt Beter is calling on parents to keep their children at home if their school's party still features blackface Zwarte 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 largest toy store chains in the Netherlands largely prefer to avoid the debate around the appearance of blackface Sinterklaas character Zwarte Piet by not having the character in their stores, NU.nl reports after speaking to the toy stores.
Intertoys, the largest toy chain in the Netherlands with over 200 branches, removed Piet in whatever form completely from decorations in Intertoys stores. The chain thus avoids uncomfortable situations, a spokesperson said to the newspaper.
All 11 members of radical nationalist group Pegida arrested during the national Sinterklaas arrival party in Apeldoorn on Saturday, have been released from custody, the police announced on Sunday. The Pegida demonstrators, dressed as blackface Zwarte Piet, were arrested for refusing to follow police orders. The other Sinterklaas arrival parties throughout the Netherlands happened largely without major incident.
Several people Including the head of radical nationalist group Pegida were arrested in Apeldoorn at the national arrival of Sinterklaas, the winter holiday folklore character who brings gifts to children. Police say that most of those arrested were protestors who refused orders to move to a cordoned off area for demonstrations.
Posters featuring anti-discrimination activist Jerry Afriyie as Zwarte Piet were plastered all over Den Haag late Friday night and early Saturday morning. The posters use a digitally-manipulated portrait of Afriyie, turning him into the racist caricature he has led a charge against for years.
Hundreds of posters were affixed along the parade route for the arrival of Sinterklaas in Den Haag. They were glued to storefronts and boats in the harbor, according to broadcaster Omroep West.
The vast majority of Dutch municipalities are staying out of the discussion around the appearance of Zwarte Piet at the Sinterklaas arrival parties in their cities. Only a small number set conditions regarding the controversial character in the Sinterklaas tradition, NOS reports after speaking to the 120 largest municipalities in the Netherlands, three quarters of which responded to the broadcaster's questions.
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."
The supervisory board of the National Union of Journalists, a leading journalism labour union in the United Kingdom, passed a motion unanimously late last week that encourages reporters and editors covering the Zwarte Piet character in the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration to do so in a non-discriminatory way. Journalists were reminded of the union's Race Reporting Guidelines, which states that publications should not "originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race or colour".
Activists seek personal protection: Protest organization Kick Out Zwarte Piet has scrapped its public schedule after a violent attack on its activists in Den Haag, wrote Nu.nl, and a threat of rioting at the group's planned roundtable discussion in Hengelo. The Hengelo event set for Monday was cancelled by city politicians at the last minute, according to Tubantia.
Five people were arrested in Den Haag on Friday night, accused of attempted arson and a violent assault against anti-Zwarte Piet activists meeting there, police said. Dozens of people were gathered in the former school building to discuss their activism against the use of blackface and racist caricatures in the Netherlands, when dozens more tried to storm the facility.
The national Sinterklaas arrival party in Apeldoorn can happen without any blackface Zwarte Piet characters, according to the court in Arnhem. The court ruled against a lawsuit demanding that the municipality of Apeldoorn revoke the permit for the party because Sinterklaas will only be accompanied by so-called Chimney Pieten - Piet characters with soot marks on their faces instead of blackface makeup, NOS reports.
From next year Eindhoven will follow the line of the Sinterklaasjournaal and drop blackface Zwarte Pieten from its arrival party, the municipality and Stichting Sint-Nicolaas, the foundation responsible for organizing the Sinterklaas arrival party, announced on Monday. But this year there will still be blackface Zwarte Pieten among the crowd of other-color Pieten at the party, Eindhovens Dagblad reports.
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.
The Dutch government must take the lead in combating racism, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and Xenophobia, Tendayi Achiume.
This year Sinterklaas will only be accompanied by so-called Chimney Pieten at his national arrival in Apeldoorn on November 16th. All of Sinterklaas' helpers will have soot marks on their faces, instead of the traditional blackface makeup, NTR announced on Tuesday, NU.nl reports.
The proportion of Dutch who think that Sinterklaas' controversial helper must stay in his traditional blackface form decreased from 65 percent in 2016 to around 50 percent this year, according to a survey by research agency I&O Research among 3,145 Dutch aged 18 or older, NOS reports.
After a weekend that saw anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrators attacked by threats, racist epithets, and with eggs and beer cans hurled at them, the activists of Kick Out Zwarte Piet said they are disappointed in city governance in the Netherlands. Protestors were physically and verbally assaulted during the Sinterklaas arrival events in Eindhoven, Groningen, and Leeuwarden, while threats of violence forced the cancellation of a protest in Nijmegen.
Activists angered by the use of blackface around the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition are planning to protest in Dokkum on Saturday. The protestors had previously made arrangements with the municipality to lawfully demonstrate in the Friesland town at the televised Sinterklaas arrival last year, but their buses were stopped by people who created a blockade on the A7 motorway shutting down all traffic on a main road into the province.
The municipality of Zaanstad fears that the Sinterklaas's national arrival on Saturday will have to be canceled if the court rules in favor of the Majority Perspective foundation in summary proceedings the foundation filed. The foundation did not ask for the celebration to be banned outright, as previously reported, but demands that the Zwarte Piet characters be stripped of all stereotypical characteristics and behaviors that they consider racist, NU.nl reports.
The first episode of NTR's kids show Sinterklaasjournaal on Monday featured mainly Chimney Pieten with soot marks on their faces. Only one, played by actor Maarten Wansink, had a completely black face, NU.nl reports.
In the first episode, presenter Dieuwertje Blok made first contact with the steamboat, which has to set course to Zaanstad where Sinterklaas will make his national arrival in the Netherlands on Saturday. The boat hasn't departed yet, because Sinterklaas is not yet on board.