The organisation responsible for welcoming Sinterklaas to the city has performed a stunning U-turn
Translated by Thomas Ansell
At the start of this week, Cees Anceaux, the head of the Sinterklaas committee for Leeuwarden, made the stunningly ignorant announcement that removing blacked-up Zwarte Piets from the festive childrens event was “not for discussion”. Luckily, following a huge outcry from people in Friesland, the position of the Sinterklaas committee has changed, reports the Leeuwarder Courant.
The Sinterklaasintocht in Leeuwarden will, this year, no longer feature white people covered in black facepaint amongst other astoundingly racist costume elements. Anceaux has made the announcement just a few days after 2,500 people attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Leeuwarden.
“Kick Out Zwarte Piet has changed the political agenda, and you can’t go back”, says Anceaux. The head of the Stichting Sinterkaas Intocht Leeuwarden (SSIL) came under a huge amount of completely deserved criticism for his comments earlier in the week. In trying to explain himself, Anceaux says that the existential threat of the Coronavirus outbreak for the Intocht led the committee to put Zwarte Piet-related concerns on the back burner.
In a further display of breathtaking ignorance, Anceaux went on to say: “I don’t understand the connection between discussions about Zwarte Piet [and the Black Lives Matter movement]. I think it’s really great that the protests have come here from America. But the connection to Zwarte Piet?”
“A conservative club”
Up until now, Anceaux hadn’t clarified the future of volunteers donning outfits dripping with racist tropes at the festive children’s event: “As the head of the SSIL, I’m responsible for a somewhat conservative club, and I knew that from when I begun in 2019. And I have to deal with 300 volunteers, some of whom won’t participate if something changes with Zwarte Piet.”
Even Anceaux’ own grandchildren asked him to ban Zwarte Piets at the Intocht. “You can’t close your eyes to changes. My grandchildren also said to me ‘grandpa, stop now with that Zwarte Piet’.”
After the Chair’s original comments at the start of the week, Leeuwarden’s political class also spoke out. Deputy Mayors Sjoerd Feitsma and Hein de Haan (both PvdA), tweeted on Tuesday against having blacked-up Zwarte Piets at the event. The PAL/GroenLinks alliance, along with the PvdA tabled a motion to this effect in the city hall: “as the PvdA we do not want any more intochts with Zwarte Piet”, said Dirk Visser of the PvdA. The motion will be debated on July 1.