NAACP calls traffic loop discriminatory at Bikefest Task Force meeting

NAACP calls traffic loop discriminatory at Bikefest Task Force meeting

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Several new topics were discussed at the latest Bikefest Task Force meeting in Myrtle Beach Wednesday, while one group in attendance cried foul over the traffic loop by suggesting that it is discriminatory.

"Describing the impact of the barricades, the police presence and the traffic plan, one woman told us the city of Myrtle Beach treated black tourists like caged animals. Those are her words, not my words," said Anson Asaka, associate general counsel for the NAACP.

National NAACP representatives traveled to Myrtle Beach for the task force meeting.

Even though Myrtle Beach police found cases of violence went down from 2014 to 2015, Asaka said he thinks the loop had nothing to do with that.

"A traffic plan has no rational relationship to shootings," he said. "In fact, the people that were allegedly involved, there's no certainty they were there for black bike week or not."

Asaka told the Bikefest Task Force members about the many complaints the organization received in reference to increased traffic.

"People simply trying to go to their hotel, which was only five minutes away," he said. "They ended up being stuck in traffic for up to an hour."

He said the loop is discriminatory because it's not implemented for other major events.

"We just think that all people should be treated equally and fairly regardless of race," Asaka said. "This traffic plan is only in place when the majority of people here are black."

This isn't the first time the NAACP has complained of discrimination in Bikefest planning. Asaka said the organization sued the city of Myrtle Beach ten years ago, then settled.

"At one time, the court actually ruled that the city of Myrtle Beach considered race as one of the factors when it planned its traffic plan back then," Asaka said. "And we're concerned that this new traffic plan is a step backwards."

In response, Mark Kruea, the spokesperson for the city of Myrtle Beach said: "Perhaps memories fade over time, but the statement earlier today at the Atlantic Beach Bikefest Task Force Meeting by the general counsel of the NAACP that the city lost a summary judgment motion and that the federal district court judge found, as a matter of fact and law, that the city employed discriminatory practices is categorically false.  Any review of the court's order will confirm that this morning's statement is false."

Kruea said the NAACP offered the settlement in the case, essentially requiring a traffic pattern for both Harley Week and Bikefest. The city accepted and those terms ended in 2010.

However, Asaka told the task force the NAACP is putting the city on notice again.

"There should be no double standards," he said. "All people should be treated fairly and equally."

The NAACP presented an alternative traffic plan at Thursday's task force meeting, which involves a tactic called flush-outs. For about 10 minutes every hour, police would force traffic out of particular intersections within a certain area to keep traffic moving.

Asaka said the NAACP was told city staff would consider alternative plans for the 2016 Bikefest. Then, the same traffic loop was approved again.

Asaka said, at the very least, the city needs to consider it for next year.

The NAACP was told Wednesday the representatives can take part in future task force meetings.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster said the majority of the suggestions from the After Action Report from the 2015 Bikefest have been taken into account this year.

Myrtle Beach Police Lt. Joey Crosby showed off 'map services' to task force members. The system uses a cell phone's GPS to show drivers nearby traffic closures and direct them around the closures from one point to another.

Map services will launch in the next few weeks to give people time to plan their routes ahead of time.

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