CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – Governor Nikki Haley said that she wants Bikefest to end in the Grand Strand at a meeting with area leaders Friday morning.
Gov. Haley had been scheduled to meet with leaders at the Conway Emergency Operations Center to discuss hurricane preparedness, but after the string of violent incidents over Memorial Day Weekend, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and other leaders said they wanted to discuss these issues with the governor.
"There is nothing worse that a governor wants to see than Myrtle Beach on the front page of USA Today in a negative light," Gov. Haley said. "In a time where we are trying to improve the tourism in South Carolina, trying to bring jobs to South Carolina trying to show everybody why Horry County is such a great place to live, work, vacation and raise a family, this was not something to be proud of."
Gov. Haley said that the string of shootings that left three people dead and more injured was not a problem with law enforcement, but a problem with the event itself.
"This is no longer a law enforcement issue," Gov. Haley said. "Our law enforcement was stellar. We had more than enough people – 273 we sent from the state."
She questioned how Atlantic Beach leaders could claim the violence wasn't the result of Bikefest, and reiterated that the whole event has to go. She added that she intends to sit down with the Atlantic Beach leadership to discuss how to boost the economy and tourism for the area without Bikefest.
"It is time for that Bikefest to come to an end, and that is the way that I am going to talk to the elected officials of Atlantic Beach, and I think it's time for everybody in Horry County to come together and say, 'No more. We are proud of our state, we are proud of the look of our state, we are proud of the actions of our state, we are proud of the people of our state," Gov. Haley said.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Rhodes, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, and Myrtle Beach Councilman Randal Wallace were all pleased to hear what the governor had to say.
"That is what I wanted to hear," Mayor Rhodes said.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce released the following statement in response to Haley's remarks Friday afternoon:
"We want to applaud Gov. Haley and thank her for providing the necessary leadership and recognizing the activities surrounding the Memorial Day Bikefest attracts far too many problems. We would like to restore Memorial Day weekend to what it was meant to be, and stand ready to work with the governor, our local governments, the business community and our citizens to make that happen."
Earlier, in a letter to Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce members, Dean made the following remarks:
"The Myrtle Beach area is one of America's premier vacation destinations, welcoming 16.1 million visitors a year. Thankfully, we only have to deal with this level of senseless crime and random acts of violence one weekend each year. Unfortunately, this situation is all too familiar. What should have been a stellar weekend celebrating our military heroes and kicking off the summer season has once again been marred by criminals and felons who show no regard for our laws. The loss of life seen over the Memorial Day weekend is tragic, and we must do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again. We, as a community, must act in a responsible and caring manner to protect our citizens, visitors and businesses. We should not allow the unfortunate circumstances of this one weekend to define us as a community."
Read and watch Mayor Rhodes' reaction to the violence last weekend here:
For statements and reactions from other area leaders, click here:
For the latest details on all the shooting incidents over last weekend, click here: