Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, the blackfaced sidekick of Saint Nicholas, rear, walks in a parade in Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch version of St. Nicholas arrived Saturday in the Netherlands in an annual children’s party that has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete.

White people often don blackface makeup to play the character in parades across the country.

Opponents say such depictions promote racist stereotypes, while supporters defend the helper of Sinterklaas, the white-bearded, red-robed Dutch version of St. Nicholas, as a traditional children's character.

Though the two sides faced off along the route of parades in a number of towns, there were no reports of serious violence. Police presence was high in towns where demonstrations were organized.

The nationally televised arrival parade happened amid tight security, in the central city of Apeldoorn. Thousands of children and their parents cheered as an actor playing Sinterklaas arrived. His helpers handed out candy and high fives.

For the first time, there were no Petes in full blackface at the official arrival. Organizers instead put smears on their faces to represent soot from chimneys they climb down to deliver gifts to children. The “soot” ranged from light to dark dustings.

Dutch media reported that the leader of the Netherlands’ arm of anti-immigrant movement PEGIDA — wearing a Pete costume and blackface makeup — was detained by police in Apeldoorn.

Police said in a tweet that a number of people were peacefully detained for refusing to go to locations set aside for demonstrators.

Hundreds of anti-Black Pete protesters gathered in a park in The Hague, where blackface Petes formed part of the official parade, for a peaceful demonstration.

A row of three umbrellas carrying the messages “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Pete is Racism” and “Stop Black Face” was laid out on the grass by demonstrators.

Mariam El Maslouhi told the crowd she hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to protest in the city again next year.

“The Netherlands has heard us, The Hague has heard us, Parliament has heard us,” she said.

Some Dutch cities, including the capital, Amsterdam, have stopped using blackface makeup in their Sinterklaas parades.

But the changes anger some.

Overnight in The Hague, supporters of the traditional version of the character put up hundreds of posters that superimposed the face of the leader of anti-Pete activists on a blackface depiction of Pete.

Last week, a group of protesters vandalized cars and threw fireworks at the venue of a meeting of anti-Pete activists in The Hague. On Thursday and Friday police detained three people for making online threats to the festivities in Apeldoorn.

Two children dressed like Saint' Nicholas' blackfaced sidekick Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, pass police vehicles as they walk towards Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
In this Sunday Nov. 17, 2013, image children get candy from
Saint Nicholas' blackfaced sidekick Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, hands out treats to children in Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
A boat carrying Saint Nicholas and his blackfaced sidekick Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, arrive in Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
-FILE- In this Saturday Nov. 16, 2013, image The Dutch version of Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, and his blackface sidekicks
-FILE- In this Sunday Nov. 17, 2013 image A demonstrator turns his back to the parade of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, and his blackface sidekick
Demonstrators with Kick Out Zwarte Piet, KOZP, or Kick Out Black Pete, carry signs in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Demonstrators with Kick Out Zwarte Piet, KOZP, or Kick Out Black Pete, carry a sign reading Black Pete Is Racism, in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, the blackfaced sidekick of Saint Nicholas, rear, walks in a parade in Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
A woman poses with Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, the blackfaced sidekick of Saint Nicholas during a parade in Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Demonstrators with Kick Out Zwarte Piet, KOZP, or Kick Out Black Pete, carry signs in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Two Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes, the blackfaced sidekick of Saint Nicholas pass on a scooter as a police officer during a parade in Scheveningen harbor, near The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas has become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents of his sidekick, Black Pete. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
A woman wipes her tears during a Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick Zwarte Piet have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
A Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstrator sits in front of a banner reading
Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstrators listen to speakers during a gathering in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick Zwarte Piet have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstrators gather in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick Zwarte Piet have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstrators gather in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick Zwarte Piet who traditionally bring gifts to children have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstrators hold a placard in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick Zwarte Piet have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Kick Out Zwarte Piet, or Kick Out Black Pete demonstrators shout slogans in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Dutch version of St. Nicholas and his blackface sidekick Zwarte Piet have become the backdrop for increasingly acrimonious confrontations between supporters and opponents. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)