May 25, 2007
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will again keep a close watch on the City of Myrtle Beach and local businesses this holiday weekend as annual Black Bike Week festivities get underway.
For the third consecutive year the NAACP will conduct Operation Bike Week Justice to monitor activities in the resort town during the annual Memorial Day holiday weekend gathering of African American motorcycle enthusiasts. Throughout the weekend, NAACP teams will be monitoring police activity and treatment of black tourists, observing the practices of local businesses and watching traffic patterns.
Last March, the NAACP successfully concluded every federal discrimination lawsuit filed in Myrtle Beach that arose from complaints by African American tourists who attended Black Bike Week festivities between 1999 and 2003. Black Bike Week is the only time each year when the majority of tourists in the Myrtle Beach area are African American.
As a result of the NAACP’s hard work, several restaurants that were closed in 2005 and prior years have opened their doors and welcomed black bikers. And now, the Myrtle Beach Police Department uses the same traffic pattern on Ocean Boulevard from 29th Avenue north to 17th Avenue south, during the times of 2 p.m. to midnight on Harley and Black Bike weekends. Under a settlement agreement, the Myrtle Beach Police Department must also train all officers deployed during Black Bike Week on policing crowds and cultural sensitivity.
Again this year, a complaint hotline was activated for individuals to report closed restaurants, police misconduct or other unfair treatment. Dozens of calls last year listed complaints against businesses for increased prices and noted police misconduct, frivolous charges and large fines for minor offenses.
“The NAACP remains vigilant in order to ensure all tourists are treated equally,” said NAACP Chief Operating Officer Nelson B. Rivers, III, a native South Carolinian. “Any form of racial discrimination against Black Bike Week visitors will not be tolerated. Closing businesses or refusing to provide equal services to Black Bike Week visitors that are provided to visitors at other times of the year, not only makes no economic sense, it is against the law.”
The federal lawsuits arose from different treatment of Black Bike Week visitors and those who attend Harley Week, traditionally held one week earlier and a predominately white event.
The lawsuits referenced unequal treatment of black motorcyclists by the city, four restaurants and a hotel. Numerous discrimination complaints have been filed with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission against other Myrtle Beach area businesses in previous years.
Negotiated settlements were reached with the City of Myrtle Beach, Damon’s Oceanfront and Barefoot Landing, Greg Norman’s Australian Grill, the Yachtsman Resort Hotel and J. Edward’s Great Ribs and More.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.