BEFORE BLACK BIKE WEEK 2005
Black Bike Week Court Battles
Thursday, May 19, 2005/NAACP on Bike Week Traffic: No justice, no peace./By Traci Bridges/Media General News Service MYRTLE BEACH -- Two days after a court of appeals temporarily stayed an order that would have forced the same traffic plans to be implemented for Harley Bike Week and the Memorial Day Atlantic Beach Bikefest, national NAACP officials were in Myrtle Beach on Thursday to send a message to the city: "If we don't have justice, then you will not have peace." Dr. Nelson B. Rivers III, chief operating officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, equated the city's refusal to use the same traffic plans for both biker weeks to its erection of a fence in the ocean between black and white beaches in the 1950s during the organization's press conference Thursday in front of Myrtle Beach City Hall. What Myrtle Beach has attempted to do is put the fence back," Rivers said. "The fence must go." The NAACP's pending lawsuit claims the city of Myrtle Beach’s discrepancy in traffic plans for Harley Bike Week and the Memorial Day Atlantic Beach Bikefest discriminates against black bikers. During the Memorial Day Atlantic Beach Bikefest, more commonly known as Black Biker Week, traffic on Ocean Boulevard is restricted to one-way. During the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally, bikers are allowed to travel both ways. Last week, a federal judge in Florence issued an order that would have forced the city to implement similar plans for the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. But on Tuesday, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the lower court judge’s order. The ruling will allow Myrtle Beach to use different traffic routing plans for two biker festivals this month, at least until the court can hear the city’s appeal. The stay means, at this point, the city can again choose its own traffic patterns, allowing traffic to flow both ways on Ocean Boulevard this week for the Harley Rally, and only one way for the Memorial Day Bikefest. During this week's Harley Rally, the two interior lanes of Ocean Boulevard will be used for traffic and the outside lanes will be for emergency vehicles. But NAACP officials said Thursday that they will not give up the fight against what they consider an injustice. "This is not the 1950s and 1960s," the Rev. Kenneth Floyd, president of the NAACP's Conway branch, said. "This is 2005, and this kind of racism must and will stop in Horry County," Floyd said. "We thought this city learned its lesson in 1989, but we see now it's time to take her back to school." Mayor Mark McBride was unavailable for comment Thursday, but city officials maintain that the difference in traffic routes for the two bike weeks is based on traffic patterns, not race. City spokesman Mark Kruea told WBTW News 13 on Thursday that the traffic routes for the Atlantic Beach Bike Fest were implemented strictly to avoid the extreme traffic congestion problems the city has sustained in the past during Memorial Day weekend. NAACP officials dismissed the city's claim and said the difference in traffic plans is obviously based on race. "There's nothing about what they say that holds up factually," Rivers said. "They've put up a distinction between how white visitors are treated during Harley Week and how black visitors are treated during the Memorial Day Bikefest. "That's plain wrong. It's discrimination on the basis of race," he said. "A week from now, the streets of this city will roll up and the red carpets will darken. Some in this city believe, 'We'll make it uncomfortable for you so you won't come back.' But we will come back because this is America and we can go anywhere we want." Rivers urged people to support the NAACP's efforts by observing the city's practices during Harley Week and Memorial Day weekend and calling a hotline the organization has set up to report discrepancies in treatment of white and black bikers. That number is (888) 362-8683. In the meantime, Rivers said the NAACP will not abandon its fight for equality. "We have a long history of winning the fight against injustices through legal pursuits, direct action and moral persuasion," Rivers said. "If you want the attention that's negative to stop, stop the negative behavior," he said. "Until there's justice, you will not peacefully be able to go about your business. We will raise our voices, we will go to court and if necessary, we will take direct action. As the NAACP has said many times before, as long as injustice is here, so shall we be."
NAACP Website Press Release:/Federal Court Orders Equal Treatment For Black Tourists/Court grants preliminary injunction to stop the city from discriminating against black bikers
The U.S. District Court in South Carolina today agreed with the NAACP that the City of Myrtle Beach must stop discriminating against African American motorcyclists during their annual meeting in the South Carolina beach city during the Memorial Day weekend. It is the only weekend each year when the majority of tourists in the City are African American and the only weekend each year when the City implements a restrictive traffic plan requiring all traffic to travel one-way for 60 blocks.
The Court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the city from implementing a restrictive one-way traffic pattern along a major city boulevard during “Black Bike Week” unless they do the same thing during a predominately white annual motorcycle event called “Harley Week.” The city is free to implement one-way, two-way or another traffic pattern, “but only if implemented for both events,” the Court said.
Angela Ciccolo, NAACP Interim General Counsel, said: “This decision is significant. As the Court pointed out, granting a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy. The NAACP has said all along that African Americans deserve equal treatment and equal protection under the law. We are delighted that the Court agrees and has ordered the City of Myrtle Beach to change its ways and stop discriminating against African American tourists visiting South Carolina.”
Richard Ritter, Staff Attorney, for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, said: "The Washington Lawyers' Committee is enormously pleased with this decision. The Court has sent a clear message to the City of Myrtle Beach that its practices in regard to Black Bike Week must change."
Each year, in May, two large motorcycle rallies are held in the Myrtle Beach area. In mid-May, thousands of predominately white motorcyclists and tourists come to Myrtle Beach for an event known as “Harley Week.” A week later, over Memorial Day weekend, a similar number of black tourists attend a similar motorcycle rally in the Myrtle Beach area, known as “Black Bike Week.” The treatment of the tourists for each event is starkly different.
The white Harley Week tourists are wholeheartedly welcomed by the Myrtle Beach government, businesses, and community leaders. When the black tourists arrive, restaurants close, hotels implement special policies, and the City restricts travel along the main drag of Myrtle Beach -- Ocean Boulevard, which is converted into an oppressive one-way traffic pattern that restricts traffic with limited exit points. The City’s police department also deploys triple the number of police officers to enforce a one-time “zero tolerance” policy aimed at black tourists.
The plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is the latest court action taken by the Conway (S.C.) Branch of the NAACP and other African American tourists since filing the civil rights lawsuit against the City in 2003. In advance of Memorial Day Weekend in 2005, the motion for preliminary injunction focuses on the traffic pattern along Ocean Boulevard and asks the Court to stop the City from using this restrictive one-way traffic pattern for Memorial Day Weekend.
The city government argued that a more-restrictive traffic pattern is necessary during “Black Bike Week” due to increased traffic gridlock and an increased need for safety, but the Court said the defendants “failed to show that a one-way traffic pattern clearly reduces congestion or is more accessible to emergency vehicles than a two-way traffic pattern.”
Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride testified during his deposition that the city “welcomes” white tourists during Harley Week, and tries to “discourage” the Black Bike Week tourists from visiting. McBride said he does not consider the African American tourists to be law-abiding. He testified: “They want to disregard the law and sit on the tops of their car and smoke dope and drink and do whatever they want to and disregard everything.” In contrast to the Black Bike Week tourists, McBride testified that “when you tell a group of white youth to behave or you’re going to jail, for the most part, they behave....”
Last year, the NAACP also filed several federal civil rights lawsuits against four Myrtle Beach area restaurants accused of discriminating against African American tourists after they closed for business when African American tourists visited Myrtle Beach during Black Bike Week. One of the restaurants, J. Edward’s Great Ribs and More, agreed on a settlement that will keep the restaurant open during Black Bike Week. Lawsuits against other area restaurants, Damon’s Oceanfront, Damon’s Barefoot Landing and Greg Norman’s Australian Grille, owned by professional golfer Greg Norman, are still outstanding.
The lawsuit against the City of Myrtle Beach was filed on behalf of the NAACP by the law firms of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP; Derfner, Altman & Wilborn, LLC; and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are frontline advocates for civil rights in their communities and monitor equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.