Netherlands heavily divided on Zwarte Piet discussion

With the arrival of Sinterklaas this weekend, we saw a lot of protests, arrests, and fights. However, as a new week has come along, we are now facing a country which is heavily divided on the Zwarte Piet discussion. 

Soot Piets in Amsterdam and Utrecht

Luckily, there were no fights in Amsterdam and Utrecht as this year the two cities welcomed Soot Piets. In Amsterdam on Sunday, 400,000 people turned out to welcome Sinterklaas. He was accompanied by 350 of the new sooty-faced Piets.

Amsterdam has been phasing out the traditional blackface make-up over the past few years, announcing just the presence of soot-faced Piet as the first city in the Netherlands. Mainly, therefore, the celebrations there went on without any disruption.

Pro-Zwarte Piet activists in Eindhoven and Tilburg

The most disgusting behavior was to be seen in Eindhoven, where 250 football hooligans and pro-Piet activists surrounded a small group of anti-Black Pete activists on Saturday. The anti-Black Pete activists had exercised their legal right and asked for all the right permits in order to protest.

The ‘Pro-Black-Pete’ folks threw eggs at the protesters and could be heard hurling racist abuse and bringing the fascist-salute. This particular clip has sparked a little outrage online in the big outrage that is this year’s Zwarte Piet debate.

In Tilburg on Sunday, police arrested 44 pro-Piet demonstrators. This was done, in order to stop them from attacking a small, legal and peaceful anti-Piet protest. The mayor of Tilburg has expressed his regrets that this and all other shows of force by the police are now necessary to protect the Children’s party.

Amnesty International condemns pro-Piet violence

Amnesty International, the national ombudsman and the director of the Centre for Public Order and Security have condemned pro-Piet violence. They disagree with the way police and local mayors dealt with the violence targeted at this weekend’s anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrations.

They have also criticized the decisions to stop demonstrations early or to ban them altogether in cities such as Nijmegen, The Hague, Leeuwarden and Den Helder because of the threat to public safety. Amnesty International spokesman Emile Affolter and other politicians have now called on prime minister Mark Rutte to condemn the violence, instead of remain silent.

One a meta-level, one can also view this as a struggle between the multicultural ‘Randstad’ and the rural areas of the Netherlands. Just like so many other culture identity debates in the modern world. Seems like we haven’t seen the last of it for years to come.


What is your opinion on the ongoing Zwarte Piet topic? Let us know in the comments below!

Here’s our video of the Sinterklaas arrival in Leiden in 2016:

Feat pic: Wikipedia/CC/Berkh

Veronika Licheva
Veronika Licheva
Living the short girl life in the land of giants. Veronika is a content creator who takes great interest in video, photography, and journalism. Her mission in The Netherlands is to build a vibrant and exciting career, while simultaneously petting as many dogs as possible.


  1. So untrue and wrongly emphasised.

    Yes people are not on the same page.
    There is however a big but…..

    It is a small minority who keeps shouting rasism.
    While it is just a children’s fest. With gifts …

    A kid doesn’t see color it seems the fun times ahead.
    This is being ruined by the opposers.

    Anyway.. world is going to fall on top of this
    So… Discussion is useless.

  2. This article ought to have researched or at least acknowledged what is happening in The Netherlands on this issue. That it is in reality a minority group that wants to get rid of the traditions of the majority. It’s like someone barging into your home and saying, look, I don’t like you celebrating Christmas so you have to stop it because otherwise we will call you a “racist”, etc.,etc. Good luck with that.

  3. This will continue every year until its appropriately adapted.. Yes its a grown up problem and discussion but when you dig in to the history of the minstrel shows and its slavery connection its not that hard to see the link to a dark past of Dutch colonization.
    Im Dutch and I am born in Holland and absolutely loved Sinterklaas.. Never in my mind did I ever think about the celebrations being racist in the slightest way. But that’s not the point…


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