Amsterdam mayor was right to licence Sinterklaas parade: highest Dutch court

Sinterklaas no Piets

Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan acted correctly when he gave a licence to last year’s Sinterklaas parade, the Council of State said on Wednesday.

The council is the highest Dutch court and had been asked to consider the issue after a lower court said the character of Zwarte Piet is a racist stereotype and infringed human rights treaties.

In its 17 page statement, the council said a mayor can only refuse a permit if there is a risk to public order. This was not the case with the Sinterklaas parade, therefore the mayor acted properly, the council said.

In July, a court in Amsterdam ruled the Zwarte Piet character is a negative stereotype and infringes on the European treaty of human rights. That court told the mayor to reconsider the licensing process.

That verdict was partially based on council research which showed a substantial proportion of black Amsterdammers think Zwarte Piet is offensive. Anti-Piet campaigners had asked the court to rule the parade illegal.

The Council of State, however, said the mayor only has to consider public order issues when approving parade permits. Nor is the mayor in a position to determine if Zwarte Piet is counter to human rights policies, the council said.

The Sinterklaas parade in Amsterdam is watched by tens of thousands of people and hundreds of Zwarte Piets are included in the procession. Van der Laan has already said that this year the character will ditch the gold earrings and red lips. In addition, the Amsterdam parade will also include Piets with soot smudges.

The Sinterklaas festivities kick off this weekend in Gouda when his ‘arrival’ in the Netherlands is broadcast live on television. The actual present-giving tradition takes place on December 5. has been free for 12 years, but now we are asking our readers to help. Your donation will enable us to keep providing you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch.
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