'Black Pete' controversy stirs up Netherlands

Police detain an anti-Black Pete demonstrator in Gouda, Netherlands, on Saturday.

Story highlights

  • Dutch "Black Pete" tradition draws fire again with protests and arrests
  • In the Netherlands, Black Pete accompanies St. Nicholas
  • Some say the tradition is racist and offensive
The Dutch version of festive St. Nicholas is once again landing on the naughty list for some in the Netherlands, who say his Black Pete sidekick is a racist throwback to the colonial era.
Protesters gathered Sunday at Amsterdam's festival honoring St. Nicholas -- or Sinterklaas as he is known in Dutch -- a day after 90 people were arrested in demonstrations surrounding his ceremonial arrival in country at the Dutch city of Gouda.
They carried signs reading, "Black Pete is racism."
Only one person was arrested in Sunday's event, according to CNN affiliate RTL and Dutch national broadcaster NOS.
In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is accompanied by a dark-skinned figure, often played by whites in black face who wear curly afro-style wigs and red lip coloring.
Actors dressed as Black Pete arrive on a boat in Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday.
Dutch blackface tradition debated
Dutch blackface tradition debated


    Dutch blackface tradition debated


Dutch blackface tradition debated 02:49
The character sometimes visits private home and hands out candy to children but also is reputed to take away the naughty ones.
The tradition has grown increasingly contentious in recent years, with the United Nations arguing last year in favor of a national dialogue on the practice.
Experts working under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Humam Rights last year said people of African descent found the character's depiction "rooted in unacceptable, colonial attitudes that they find racist and offensive."
The Dutch government replied that it was aware that the practice was offensive to some, and that it had received dozens of complaints a year concerning Black Pete since 2011.
Last week, a high-level Dutch court declined to rule on the controversy.