Amsterdam’s traditional Sinterklaas parade will go ahead on November 17 after the city’s licencing committee said there were no grounds to ban it.
A group of activisits had lodged protests against the procession because of the inclusion of hundreds of Zwarte Piets – Sinterklaas’s helpers who are played by white people in black-face make-up.
‘The commission is of the opinion that all the conditions for granting a licence have been met,’ said the city’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan in a statement. ‘In addition, the commission has not established legally if the Zwarte Piet character is racist.’
The mayor has met Quincy Gario, who is leading the protests, to discuss the decision and has agreed that he and the parade committee will continue to hold talks about how the tradition should be continued.
In his statement, the mayor said he agreed with comedian Erik van Muiswinkel, who has proposed making the character ‘less black and less of a slave’.
‘Exaggerated accents, afro hair, thick lips, earrings and subservience are proof to some of the links with slavery and should be avoided,’ Van der Laan said. ‘Zwarte Piet with blonde hair, Piets who are overly made-up, Piets with sooty faces or other coloured Piets – everything is possible.’
Read Van Muiswinkel’s column (in English)