MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Local, state and national NAACP officials will again be monitoring for complaints of discrimination during Black Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina over Memorial Day Weekend.
NAACP volunteers from the national, state and local branches will be in Myrtle Beach to respond as needed to incidents, document evidence and address disputes between local business owners or police and the bikers gathering through a telephone hotline and online complaint forms.
“Being black and riding a bike should not subject you to the treatment reserved for blacks riding in the back of the bus back in the day,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks. “Separate but unequal treatment is a part of our history that must not be revisited. For decades, members of the South Carolina NAACP have confronted the appalling and unfortunately common discrimination, racism and intolerance in their home state. Our national office will always stand shoulder to shoulder with them to bring to light the hateful prejudices that override basic civil rights.”
Participants can report discrimination by local businesses online at www.naacp.org/bikeweekjustice, and can file complaints about police treatment at www.naacp.org/bikeweekarrest or call a special hotline at (888) 362-8683 to report a complaint.
This is the 10th year that the NAACP has monitored local treatment of the more than 400,000 riders who travel to the city annually on Memorial Day weekend for the largest African-American biker rally in the nation. In previous years, participants have been denied public accommodations by many businesses and restaurants and faced intense enforcement by police and public officials.
Black Bike Week is one of two major motorcycle events held near the beach town every May since the 1980s. It occurs after Myrtle Beach Bike Week rally held May 13 – 22, a majority-white bikers rally that the city hosted for decades.
While town officials have repeatedly passed laws regulating both events, merchants and public officials have treated the two crowds vastly different. The NAACP has had to work in the past with merchants who repeatedly denied services and accommodations to black bikers by closing down for the weekend, increasing prices for goods and services, barring customers from sitting in their dining rooms and other actions.
As a result of overly aggressive policing tactics, participants in Black Bike Week are often subjected to more arrests for minor infractions, harsh fines for local traffic and noise ordinances and other interactions with police. Town officials have a history of being openly hostile to participants, and passed numerous traffic codes, noise ordinances and municipal fines in an attempt to discourage the event. Under negotiated settlements between the NAACP, city officials and businesses over the years, multiple businesses agreed to stop discriminating against riders while police instituted new training on crowd control and operations.
“For years, the NAACP has fought to ensure that Myrtle Beach businesses and law enforcement do not show preferential treatment for customers based on race,” said Dr. Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina NAACP State Conference. “The vast majority of bike week attendees are law-abiding men and women looking to have fun. We will be working to make sure that the city of Myrtle Beach doesn’t punish a gathering of thousands for the bad behavior of a few.”
“This event has been the cause of unnecessary tension and restriction in this city, despite bringing millions in business and tourism to this town,” said Mickey James, president of the Myrtle Beach branch of the NAACP. “We hope that by working together, we can make this a safe and fun event for everyone.”
This year law enforcement officials will again be restricting bikers to a 23-mile traffic loop in the evening with limited exit points and have installed body cameras, automated license plate scanners, public camera surveillance and other enhancements to security. The city imposes the 23-mile traffic loop only during Black Bike Week, the one time of the year when the majority of tourists in Myrtle Beach are African-American.
Lawyers and field organizers with the national headquarters of the NAACP created the online reporting system and have been sent to Myrtle Beach to assist the local chapter.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.