Dutch Black Pete is 'negative stereotype' - court

People dressed as Black Petes
Image caption The debate over Black Pete has intensified in the Netherlands in recent years

Black Pete, the traditional sidekick to the Dutch St Nicholas is a "negative stereotype of black people", a court in Amsterdam has ruled.

It said the capital must review the character's involvement in the annual festivities in November-December.

The Dutch version of the St Nicholas legend has him and armies of Black Petes arriving by steamboat from Spain.

Previous calls to ban Black Petes - with their blackened faces, red lips and Afro wigs - have caused outrage.

On Thursday, Amsterdam's regional court said the "image of Black Pete with his thick red lips, being a stupid servant, gives rise to a negative stereotyping of black people".

It said "many black Amsterdammers felt discriminated against".

The court added that the mayor now had six weeks to review the traditional festival - one of the biggest dates on the Dutch calendar.

Supporters of the ban say Black Pete (or Zwarte Piet) is a racist throwback to the times when black people were enslaved by the Dutch in the country's overseas colonies.

Last year, hundreds of people staged a protest in Amsterdam. The issue has even sparked an investigation by a United Nations advisory panel.

But many ordinary people argue that Black Pete is a just a harmless prankster and a key figure on annual celebrations on 5 December - when the festivities conclude with a night of gift giving across the country.

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