Dutch court: "Black Pete" holiday figure is offensive, Amsterdam must rethink its celebration

An Amsterdam court says the figure known as "Black Pete" — the sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus — is a negative stereotype of black people and the city must rethink its involvement in holiday celebrations involving the figure.

Debate over Zwarte Piet has intensified in the Netherlands in recent years as opponents say the black clown with thick red lips and a frizzy Afro hairstyle is a racist caricature. Most Dutch people argue he is a harmless fantasy figure and say no insult is intended.

Thursday's ruling ordered the City of Amsterdam to re-examine its decision to grant a permit for an annual winter festival attended by thousands of children. In Dutch tradition, St. Nicholas arrives by steamboat with scores of Black Petes handing out presents.