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Supporters and opponents clash over ‘racist’ Dutch character Black Pete

White people often daub their faces with black paint when they dress up to portray the helper of the Dutch version of Santa Claus.

Scattered confrontations have broken out in the Netherlands between supporters and opponents of the divisive character known as Black Pete, police and media reported.

White people often daub their faces with black paint when they dress up to play the character, who is a helper of the Dutch version of Santa Claus.

Opponents say such depictions promote racist stereotypes. Supporters defend the sidekick of Sinterklaas, the white-bearded, red-robed Dutch version of St Nicholas, as a traditional children’s character.

A nationally televised parade to welcome Sinterklaas in the historic village of Zaandijk, north of Amsterdam, passed peacefully, but at parades across the country there were a small number of confrontations.

Sinterklaas parade (Peter Dejong/AP)

Police in Rotterdam tweeted that they made three arrests as supporters of Black Pete clashed with protesters.

In the northern city of Leeuwarden, police said they “prevented two groups getting into a fight”. In nearby Groningen, police separated two groups to prevent a confrontation.

Dutch media also reported that football fans confronted a small group of anti-Pete protesters in the southern city of Eindhoven.

Prime minister Mark Rutte appealed for calm on Friday, saying: “I think society agrees on one thing: we grant children the magic of the Sinterklaas party.”

(Mark Rutte/Twitter)

A boat carrying Sinterklaas sailed into the harbour of the picturesque village of Zaandijk on Saturday accompanied by dozens of Black Petes, their faces painted varying shades, from uniformly dark to smudged with dark streaks.

Thousands of children, many wearing Black Pete costumes, lined the streets to greet Sinterklaas, many sitting on the shoulders of a parent and grabbing handfuls of sweets handed out by Black Petes.

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