Federal judge allows for traffic loop to continue during Memorial Day weekend

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The city of Myrtle Beach will be able to keep its 23-mile traffic loop in place for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

That's the decision a federal judge came to, according to an order that was filed Wednesday.

In that order, U.S. District Judge Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., denied the NAACP's motion for preliminary injunction regarding the traffic loop.

Back in February, the NAACP filed a race discrimination lawsuit against the city of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Police Department, claiming the traffic loop is a form of discrimination against African-American tourists during Bikefest, which is also know as Black Bike Week.

In that lawsuit was the motion for preliminary injunction that sought to keep the city and the police department from enforcing the traffic loop during the upcoming holiday weekend.

The NAACP claims the traffic loop violates the rights of Bikefest participants under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, according to Wednesday's ruling. The group argues that similar traffic control measures are not in place during the spring Harley rally that occurs roughly one week earlier.

Officials with the Myrtle Beach Police Department argued during a hearing earlier this month that traffic on Ocean Boulevard is more congested than it is during Harley Week, "that Bikefest attracts a younger, more socially active crowd than Harley Week, and that Bikefest participants tend to congregate and ride on Ocean Boulevard whereas Harley Week participants congregate South of the City," according to Wednesday's order.

Quattlebaum ruled the NAACP did not clearly show that the difference in traffic plans during the two events "resulted from intentional and purposeful discrimination."

The traffic loop, which runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly, went into effect for the first time during the 2015 Memorial Day weekend. It stemmed from a violent Memorial Day weekend the year before that saw three people die and several more injured during a number of shootings on Ocean Boulevard.

According to the order, the NAACP's claim of "irreparable harm" due to the traffic loop is comprised because of it bringing a lawsuit and filing a request for an injunction in February 2018, to change a plan that has been in place since 2015.

"When considering the alleged injuries to the Plaintiffs with the demonstrated public interest in preventing problems with traffic gridlock, disorderly crowds and violence that might occur on Ocean Boulevard and surrounding areas if the City's plan is enjoined, the Court finds that the public interest will be best served if the City is allowed to proceed with its traffic plan for Memorial Day weekend 2018," the order stated.

The court noted at the end of its order that the decision does not prevent the NAACP from continuing with its prosecution of the case.

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