Dutch police said Saturday they had arrested nearly 200 people protesting against Black Pete, the sidekick of Dutch Saint Nicholas accused of being a racist stereotype.
"We arrested about 190 people who were demonstrating in Rotterdam, where the protests were banned for the day," local police spokeswoman Lillian van Duijvenbode told AFP.
"We asked them to stop their demonstration at three different places in town, but they refused," she added, saying possible legal action would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Several thousand people including many children had gathered earlier in the day in Maasluis, a small town between Rotterdam and The Hague, to watch the arrival by boat and parade of Saint Nicholas and his companions.
They traditionally bring gifts for children at the start of December, but every year there is a debate on whether Black Pete represents a racist stereotype.
While many Dutch people refuse to countenance a change in the tradition, critics say his Afro hair, black skin, red lips and earrings are a reminder of the era when the Netherlands exploited slaves, notably in Surinam.
The traditional festivities for Saint Nicolas date back to the 16th century, with the first appearance of Black Pete in the 1850s.