This is not a great Sinterklaas-year, it really isn’t. Amsterdam tried to alter Zwarte Piet to make it more inclusive and neither pro- or anti-Black Piet sides seem to like it, Frisians blocked traffic to prevent protesters from showing up at Sinterklaas’ arrival in Dokkum (causing accidents!) and now this! Should we just blow the whole thing off?

Sinterklaas his arrival in Leiden last year:

(Kicked) Straight Out of Spangen

Spangen is one of Rotterdam’s (former) problem neighborhoods, having a history of decades of ill-maintained poor housing, low income and low education inhabitants – although since the dawn of the new millennium the city has made an effort to bring change, with some success. The area is improving thanks to newcomers and agreements between the city and local housing corporations.

Regardless, Spangen is still a ‘folk’-neighborhood, where people do things their way, have their own views and things can escalate if you push them. According to regional newspaper Dagblad 010 that’s exactly what happened.

After ‘founder’ Wouter Zuidema came up with the idea for a Sinterklaas Circus, and setting it up in Spangen next to the Sparta Rotterdam stadium, things have taken a turn for the worst. According to Dagblad 010, Zuidema found himself under attack – receiving threats by phone, and not just small ones, as well as through social media over the use of black faced Pieten.

As a result Zuidema called off the circus because he no longer feels safe, as well as for the safety of his staff and visitors.

A Hoax? Let Piet Deal with It!

Zuidema set up the circus in cooperation with WMO Radar, a local charity organization, who has quite a different story to tell.

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According to Zuidema himself, WMO Radar demanded ‘Chimney Pieten’ – non-blackface with only chimney dust on their faces like in Amsterdam, because Rotterdam too has opted to no longer allow for true “Black Piet”-style celebrations. Zuidema claimed that if he didn’t give in, the circus would receive no water and electricity, making the circus logistically impossible. As such he gave into demands but then back tracked and still used actual ‘Black Piet’ in performances – setting off escalation.

However, WMO Radar says different, according to them there was indeed a deal about ‘Chimney Pieten’ that was made much ahead of time but that Zuidema “tricked them” by ending cooperation with their organization the day before the circus was set to perform – they said in a statement to NOS.

Local police also questions the ‘threat’ motives of the circus closing, an officer said to Rotterdam: “I’m 100% certain this is not the case”. Rather he is under the impression that the circus simply flunked and a lack of visitors is the true motive behind closure. Although there were some ‘off’ comments on Facebook, and two protesters showed up at the location but nothing came out of it.

“There was surveillance afterwards and intensive contact with Zuidema, but no further threats. Zuidema himself also said that he does not recognize the article in the local newspaper”, he said to NOS.

So, who’s not telling the truth here? Is it Zuidema? WMO? The police or was Dagblad 010 looking for something exciting to write about? Well – if you ask us, let Piet handle this one, he doesn’t have time or patience for liars. Go ahead, Piet. Show them what you got!

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