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      Amsterdam mayor says Black Pete to "disappear" from future festivities

      The Amsterdam mayor says the Black Pete character, pictured here, will be gradually removed from future Christmas festivities because of its offensiveness.

      AMSTERDAM (AP) â?? Amsterdam's mayor and organizers of a large children's winter festival have unveiled plans to reform the image of "Black Pete" â?? the sidekick to the Dutch Santa Claus â?? to remove perceived racist elements.

      Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said Thursday the "negroid character" of Pete's appearance will disappear over a period of years.

      Black Pete has become the subject of protests in the Netherlands, as opponents say he is a caricature of an African slave carried over from colonial times: Pete is usually portrayed by white people wearing blackface makeup, bold red lipstick and frizzy "Afro" wigs.

      A large majority of the Netherlands' mostly white population say Pete is a positive figure and deny any racial insult. But a court and racism experts have found his appearance offensive.

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