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Meet 'Black Pete', the Dutch Christmas tradition that's under fire for being racist blackface

About 100 protesters were arrested today.

A Black Pete in Maassluis, Netherlands earlier today.
A Black Pete in Maassluis, Netherlands earlier today.
Image: Peter Dejong/PA Images

DUTCH POLICE HAVE arrested about 100 protesters demonstrating against Black Pete, the jolly sidekick of Dutch Saint Nicholas accused of being a racist stereotype.

“We arrested about 100 people who were demonstrating in Rotterdam, where the protests were banned for the day,” local police spokeswoman Lillian van Duijvenbode told AFP.

“We asked them to stop their demonstration at three different places in town, but they refused,” she added, saying possible legal action would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Several thousand people including many children had gathered earlier in the day in Maasluis, a small town between Rotterdam and The Hague, to watch the arrival by boat and rally of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and his companions.

They traditionally bring gifts for children at the start of December, but every year there is a debate on whether Black Pete represents a racist stereotype.

Netherlands Holiday Controversy A mother takes a selfie with her daughter and a Black Pete during the arrival of Sinterklaas. Source: Peter Dejong/PA Images

While many Dutch people refuse to countenance a change in the tradition, critics say his Afro hair, black skin, red lips and earrings are a reminder of the era when the Netherlands exploited slaves, notably in Surinam.

The traditional festivities for Saint Nicolas dates back to the 16th century, with the first appearance of Black Pete in the 1850s.

Netherlands Holiday Controversy Black Pete is often played by a white person in black make-up. Source: Peter Dejong/PA

© – AFP 2016

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