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Mural at Black archive in Amsterdam vandalized

Vandals daubed white paint over the faces of Black historical figures on a mural outside a Black cultural archive in Amsterdam in what one of the archive's founders called a racist attack Thursday.

The vandals also stuck stickers on the mural saying in Dutch “soot-smudge Pete is genocide,” a reference to the long-running and increasingly polarized debate about the children's holiday season character Black Pete, who is seen by Black activists and others as a racist caricature.

“It's super shocking and worrying. We see it as an attempt at racist intimidation,” said Mitchell Esajas, one of the founders of The Black Archives, a collection that documents the history of Black emancipation in the Netherlands.

A man answers question during a TV interview in front of a mural where vandals daubed white paint over the faces of Black historical figures outside a Black cultural archive in Amsterdam in what one of the archive's founders called a far-right attack in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The vandals also stuck stickers on the mural saying in Dutch "soot-smudge Pete is genocide," a reference to the long-running and increasingly polarized debate about the children's holiday season character Black Pete, who is seen by Black activists and others as a racist charicature. (AP PhotoPeter Dejong)

Esajas said that archive staff have filed a criminal complaint with police.

Black Pete is a helper of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, who delivers gifts to children on Dec. 5. The character is often portrayed by white people in blackface makeup. Amid protests about racism, the character increasingly is portrayed with gray “soot smudges” on his face instead of blackface. Anti-racism activists say that does not go far enough.

Vandals daubed white paint over the faces of Black historical figures on a mural outside a Black cultural archive in Amsterdam in what one of the archive's founders called a far-right attack in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The vandals also stuck stickers on the mural saying in Dutch "soot-smudge Pete is genocide," a reference to the long-running and increasingly polarized debate about the children's holiday season character Black Pete, who is seen by Black activists and others as a racist charicature. (AP PhotoPeter Dejong)

Vandals daubed white paint over the faces of Black historical figures on a mural outside a Black cultural archive in Amsterdam in what one of the archive's founders called a far-right attack in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The vandals also stuck stickers on the mural saying in Dutch "soot-smudge Pete is genocide," a reference to the long-running and increasingly polarized debate about the children's holiday season character Black Pete, who is seen by Black activists and others as a racist charicature. (AP PhotoPeter Dejong)

Vandals daubed white paint over the faces of Black historical figures on a mural outside a Black cultural archive in Amsterdam in what one of the archive's founders called a far-right attack in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The vandals also stuck stickers on the mural saying in Dutch "soot-smudge Pete is genocide," a reference to the long-running and increasingly polarized debate about the children's holiday season character Black Pete, who is seen by Black activists and others as a racist charicature. (AP PhotoPeter Dejong)

Vincent Soekra of Vereniging Ons Suriname, Our Surinam Association, is interviewed in front of murals where vandals daubed white paint over the faces of Black historical figures outside a Black cultural archive in Amsterdam in what one of the archive's founders called a far-right attack in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The vandals also stuck stickers on the mural saying in Dutch "soot-smudge Pete is genocide," a reference to the long-running and increasingly polarized debate about the children's holiday season character Black Pete, who is seen by Black activists and others as a racist charicature. (AP PhotoPeter Dejong)