Opponents of Dutch "Black Pete" Speak Out

Opponents want the city of Amsterdam to revoke the permit for a festival that features people dressed in blackface.

Posted: 10/17/2013 10:22 AM EDT

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Opponents of the Netherlands' "Black Peter" tradition have asked the City of Amsterdam to revoke the permit for a popular children's festival in which actors portraying St. Nicholas and his blackfaced helpers arrive at the city in a flotilla of ships.

"Sinterklaas," the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is portrayed as a lanky white man who arrives in November, accompanied by dozens of little helpers called Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes — typically white people in blackface makeup.

The tradition is beloved by most Dutch people, but in recent years there have been growing complaints that Pete is a racist caricature.

On Thursday dozens of protesters attended a hearing about the permit at City Hall. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan will decide later this month.

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