BEFORE BLACK BIKE WEEK 2005

 

Black Bike Week Court Battles

NAACP Press Conference concerning court's reversal decision.  This press conference by the NAACP basically told Myrtle Beach "officials" that they will not stand for these bad decisions and the different treatment of Harley Week versus Atlantic Beach Week aka Black Bike Week.

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."

May 19, 2005/NAACP Lawsuit casts shadow over final weekend of rally/By Traci Bridges

The unmistakable roar of Harley-Davidson motorcycles will be heard throughout the Pee Dee as thousands of bikers make their way to Myrtle Beach for the final weekend of the annual Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Bike Rally.
With each passing year, the crowds and the event itself grow. What once was basically a long weekend is now a 10-day event.
The final days of the rally usually bring the biggest crowds, and this year the crowds are expected to be bigger than ever. Myrtle Beach officials are expecting more than 300,000 bikers to converge on the Grand Strand for this year's rally.
An NAACP lawsuit claiming Myrtle Beach's discrepancy in traffic plans for Harley Bike Week and the Memorial Day Atlantic Beach Bikefest discriminates against black bikers has cast a shadow of doubt over this week's rally.
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. 4th 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.
That means, at this point, the city can again choose its own traffic pattern, so it says traffic will flow both ways on Ocean Boulevard this week for the Harley Rally, and only one way for the Memorial Bike Fest.
Starting today, traffic will go both directions on Ocean Boulevard. The two interior lanes will be used for traffic, and the outside lanes will be for emergency vehicles.
Michael Navarre, an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he wasn't sure whether there would be time for another court to overrule the stay before the Bikefest starts May 27.
"The city wasn't going to give black bikers relief anyway," he said. "Nothing is changing for black bikers. The lives of Harley riders are going to be better."
The NAACP has scheduled a press conference for today during which it will issue its response to the judge's decision.
Traffic patterns aside, beach roadways have thus far been deadly for bikers. By Tuesday night, the bike week fatality count was already at three, the same number of motorcycle-related deaths reported for the entire Harley rally last year.
Killed in the three wrecks, according to law enforcement officials, were 45-year-old Gregory Carter of Maryland; 49-year-old Harvey Harold Ocallaghan of Maryland; and 37-year-old Paula Jean Adkins of Michigan.
Horry County law enforcement and emergency officials said there had been 47 accidents since Friday at 8 a.m., up from 42 at the same time last year.

BIKERS AT THE BEACH /MB granted stay in bike traffic fight/Two-way pattern set for Harley rally/By Emma Ritch/The Sun News

Myrtle Beach will revert to its original traffic patterns for May's two bike rallies - two-way for the Harley rally and one-way for the Atlantic Beach one - after winning a reprieve from the court, city officials announced Tuesday.                                                  

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay Tuesday, which allows the city to maintain its original plans for the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest while the city's appeal of the injunction of the traffic plans is pending, according to the ruling.                                                                           

The city decided last week on one-way traffic plans for both rallies in response to an injunction by U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten, who said traffic plans for both rallies must be "substantially similar" because of discrimination claims by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.                                         

The NAACP is studying the legal options before deciding its next move, spokesman John C. White said.

The NAACP's Conway branch filed a lawsuit in 2003 against the city, saying Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall were discriminating by using a restrictive one-way pattern, an overwhelming police presence, and aggressive police tactics to intimidate and discourage the participants during Memorial Day weekend's Bikefest.    

The event, based in Atlantic Beach, is attended predominantly by black visitors.   Tuesday's one-page ruling supersedes the injunction and grants a stay for the city without explanation and, unlike Wooten's ruling, "expresses no view as to the ultimate merits of the case," the appeals court said.                                                                                         

The city's appeal is pending.

Wooten said race was a "motivating factor" when traffic plans were decided and said the NAACP likely will succeed in its lawsuit against the city.                                                         

"We still have a judge supporting us that hasn't been overruled," said Michael Navarre, an attorney for the NAACP.                                                                                                          

Navarre said he was not sure whether there would be time for another court to overrule the appeals court's decision before Bikefest.                                                                      

"The city wasn't going to give black bikers relief anyway," he said. "Nothing is changing for black bikers. The lives of Harley riders are going to be better."                        

Attorneys for the NAACP said they prefer a two-way traffic plan for both rallies.             

The city announced its traffic plans immediately after the appeals court ruling Tuesday.                   

The city's traffic plan for the Harley rally will be in effect from 6 a.m. Thursday (5/19) until 6 a.m. Sunday (5/22) on Ocean Boulevard and will extend from 21st Avenue North to Third Avenue South.
The two inner lanes will be used for two-way travel, while the two outer lanes will be reserved for emergency access, city officials said.                                                                           

The city's one-way traffic plan for Bikefest will be in effect from 6 a.m. Friday, May 27 until 6 a.m. Monday May 30 on Ocean Boulevard and will extend from 29th Avenue North to Kings Highway, south of 29th Avenue South.                                                                                     

Traffic will move southbound in the two western-most lanes and the two eastern-most lanes will be reserved for emergency access, city officials said.                                                                     

The one-way traffic plan was scheduled to begin today for the Harley rally.                             

City spokesman Mark Kruea said he doesn't think the last-minute change will create confusion.                                                                                                                                

The Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority, which does business as Lymo, will stick with its decision last week to suspend service on Ocean Boulevard from Wednesday to Saturday and May 26 to May 29 because it already has notified passengers and drivers of the cancellations, Marketing Director Ruth Wendt said.                                                                           

"With us just learning about this decision to run the [transit] lanes on Ocean Boulevard, Lymo's decided we've already modified all of our schedules," she said.                                

"At this late date, we just figure it would be a logistical nightmare and a disservice to our riders."                                                                                                                                 

Kruea said the city would discourage the bus service from running during either rally.                       

Mike Shank, marketing director of Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson, said he thinks the two-way plan for the Harley rally will create less confusion despite the last-minute change.                

"A lot of the people we've told are not even going to be here on Thursday," he said. "There are probably not a lot of people that can stay all nine days."                                               

The Rev. Kenneth E. Floyd, president of the NAACP's Conway branch, said the group will stick with plans to monitor both rallies to ensure equal treatment.                                       

"We will continue to struggle and continue to fight," he said. "We're not going to stop just because the judge overturned. There's a court higher than him."

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.