MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Dozens of Myrtle Beach citizens took the stand for nearly two hours Tuesday to voice their opinions about the mayhem that shook the Grand Strand, recently.
The Myrtle Beach city council meeting began Tuesday at about 2 p.m., and was the first time city leaders met since the string of shooting incidents left three people dead and several more injured in Myrtle Beach over the Memorial Day holiday.
On May 25, a Facebook page titled "Myrtle Beach Against Bikefest" was created and has since gained over 13,000 likes. One post encouraged residents to attend the Myrtle Beach City Council Meeting to voice their opinions about the violence that occurred, and the Atlantic Beach Bike Fest, which was held over Memorial Day weekend.
Mayor Rhodes and council members listened nearly two hours to input from the public at the city council meeting..
Horry County Chair Mark Lazarus said the 'planning failed' that was put into place to ward off violence and control unlawfulness. More than 1100 calls were made to Horry County Fire and Rescue during the holiday weekend.
Lazarus said he is looking forward to combining efforts and working with city leaders on a 'comprehensive plan to handle this situation'.
Several people waited their turn to address issues and complaints of their experience from Memorial Day weekend. Emotion and confessions of fear was heard throughout the room.
Suggestions for council members 'to ban all motorcycles from May 20-June 1, empower officers to tow bikes, and stop selling vendor permits' was offered from one Myrtle Beach resident.
While another concerned resident said it's not about the bikes or race, but a youth issue.
A lifelong resident explained, "It's not about the bikes ... it's about the followers that come down. It's about youth gone wild."
While another sided with him and said, "It's not a black-white issue ... It's an age issue."
Misty Cohen owns Lulu's Down on Ocean Boulevard. She pleaded with city leaders to put an end to the havoc that hit the Grand Strand.
"We were verbally abused," Cohen admitted. "There was a fight in the restaurant; I cannot run a business like this," she added.
"We should have drug dogs … people should not be smoking marijuana in my restaurant," she exclaimed.
Cohen continued with suggestions, offering a dress code be enforced 'for people that wear their pants below their behind.'
A military veteran followed Cohen's lead. He read the definition of domestic terrorism, then compared the Atlantic Beach Bikefest to the FBI term.
"I came to Myrtle Beach to forget the terror of Iraq. Now I feel like I can't even drive down Ocean Boulevard," he admitted.
He's not the only one who expressed the concern of fear.
"I've been in business, on the boulevard for 25 years. I was scared for the first time this weekend," a Myrtle Beach motel owner confessed.
Another motel owner placed blame on city leaders and Mayor Rhodes.
"You need to get a backbone and do something about it," he advised.
A business owner proposed the council resign if they couldn't find a solution.
A property owner shared the terror and turmoil she said she experienced, when crowds from Memorial Day weekend urinated and destroyed her Myrtle Beach property. She said she watched from a surveillance video as two youths slashed the tires of her husband's truck.
"My life was threatened all weekend long," she admitted.
In response to the cries and pleas for the once 'family-friendly' Myrtle Beach, Mayor Rhodes addressed various issues.
He spoke for all members, when he said City Council is concerned and angry. The meeting was held to look at what direction the city should take.
Horry County Chair Mark Lazarus, Myrtle Beach City Mayor Rhodes, and Myrtle Beach City managers will have a meeting with Gov. Haley on Friday, where help from the state will be requested.
Mayor Rhodes defended the city and said Myrtle Beach does not have enough officers.
Four hundred officers were on the streets, with 200 per shift, Mayor Rhodes explained.
He argued the city needed double that amount to patrol. Eight hundred officers are needed to handle the situation we're asked to handle. Then, that would give them the opportunity to crackdown, he said.
"Until we get that help, we have to figure out some other way to handle it," Mayor Rhodes explained.
"[The search for a solution] will not stop today from your complaints," the mayor promised.
"City Council will continue from now until next year to try to solve the problems because the city was unsafe, was held hostage."
"This is not what Myrtle Beach is all about ... we are and still are a great family resort," Mayor Rhodes said. "We have to overcome this negative publicity."
He said the city will overcome it. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce will spend funds to ensure the city will have a decent summer, according to the mayor.
However, Mayor Rhodes said the top priority remains the citizens.
"We understand your frustration, your anger and being fearful of being outside," he confirmed, and assured that the top priority is to find solutions to these problems.