By Perry Green, AFRO Sports Editor, pgreen@afro.com

A group of Black motorcyclists teamed up with the NAACP to file a lawsuit against the city of Myrtle Beach, S.C., as well as its local police department, for alleged racial discrimination shown towards those who participate in Black Bike Week.

According to the NAACP, the complaint alleges that there are major differences in the treatment of African-American bikers during Black Bike Week in comparison to how bikers are treated during Harley Week, which attracts mostly White riders. While both bike events occur in May, Black Bike Week is traditionally held during Memorial Day Weekend, while Harley Week occurs a week prior.

A lawsuit alleges members of Black Bike week in South Carolina were the victims of discrimination. (Facebook)
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The complaint is mainly about a different traffic plan that Myrtle Beach has enforced during Black Bike Week; the city doesn’t enforce the same traffic plan during Harley Week, despite both events attracting a similar amount of people in attendance.

“The City of Myrtle Beach and its police department impose no formal traffic plan during Harley Week.  However, during Black Bike Week they restrict the main two-way thoroughfare, Ocean Boulevard, to a single lane of southbound traffic.  All vehicles entering Ocean Boulevard at night are forced to travel through a 23-mile loop with just one exit. On Sunday night of Black Bike Week, it could take over six hours to complete the loop,” the NAACP said in a statement.

The suit also mentioned how Myrtle Beach drastically beefs up its police force, which “utilizes overly aggressive policing tactics against African Americans.”

The NAACP claims Myrtle Beach’s city government are employing these tactics in attempt to deter Black riders and tourists from visiting the city.

“All citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law and have the rights of expression, assembly and association,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson in the press release. “The City’s traffic plan and overly aggressive policing tactics during Black Bike Week violate those fundamental constitutional rights. The Association will continue to use the courts to fight such blatant discrimination.”

The NAACP fought and beat Myrtle Beach for the exact same issue more than a decade ago. In 2005, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina granted the NAACP’s motion for preliminary injunction, citing the differences in the traffic plans for both events were likely motivated by race, which violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to the NAACP, an agreement was then reached that forced Myrtle Beach to apply the same traffic plan for both events. But that agreement expired three years ago, and Myrtle Beach has since begun to enforce an even more rigorous traffic plan for Black Bike Week than before.

Chauncey Harris, a Maryland native who regularly drives out to Myrtle Beach to ride his bike during the event, said the current traffic plan and heavy police presence is causing some of the bikers to consider moving the event just north of Myrtle Beach, near Atlantic Beach.

“The loop that they’re forcing us to drive is affecting everybody,” Harris told the AFRO. “There’s talks going around of just meeting up at North Beach, where we’ll probably feel more comfortable because the White folks ate acting like they don’t want us here.”

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said the different plans are due to “public safety,” according to Myrtle Beach Online. “What I want to do on behalf of council is to reassure the public that our number one concern always has been and always will be public safety. And that’s just really what I want to stress. To me, my job is to make the public feel secure in their city management and their city government and our number one focus is to make sure our public is safe in all situations and all special events no matter how many people are here,” she said at a recent city council meeting.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor