NAACP watching for discrimination during bikefest

Published: May. 27, 2011 at 4:06 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2011 at 12:31 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Thursday the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced year seven of Operation Bike Week Justice in Myrtle Beach. The organization will be monitoring during the weekend of Atlantic Beach Bike Bikefest to see if black bikers are treated the same as white bikers who were just in the Grand Strand for the Harley Davidson Bike Rally.

"When they come to Myrtle Beach they should not be treated differently because of their race," said Rev. Nelson Rivers III, Vice President of Stakeholder Relations Field Operations and Membership Department for the NAACP.

Operation Bike Week Justice began in 2005, two years after the organization sued the city for using a different traffic pattern on Ocean Boulevard during Black Bike Week, and for allegedly policing more harshly. The lawsuit also made discrimination claims against several businesses, which allegedly closed or changed hours to avoid the black bikers.

City spokesperson Mark Kruea said the NAACP decided to settle the lawsuit in 2006. He said the city had a zero tolerance policy for discrimination at the time of the lawsuit and it still does.

Kruea pointed out that the city does not change traffic patterns for either bike rally any more. Since the Harley rally no longer draws crowds to Ocean Boulevard the city did not make any law enforcement adjustments in that area this year either. He said a similar stance can be expected during Memorial Day weekend, but the city will be expecting a large crowd for Memorial Day related events.

"We'll have a parade down there, "Kruea said. "We have concerts. So we'll have a lot of people downtown this weekend that we didn't necessarily have last weekend."

Rivers said the NAACP continues to target Myrtle Beach because that is where the alleged problems have been in previous years. He said just because the city has worked to reduce the rallies and the fact that the rallies are now more centralized north and south of the city does not change the organization's concerns.

"If the white bikers are treated badly and the white bikers are treated worse, that can't stand," Rivers said.

However, Rivers acknowledged that the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Atlantic beach change the traffic pattern on US Highway 17 specifically for the Black Bike Week, and that change has not drawn complaints from the NAACP. Rivers said that is because the traffic pattern change is justifiable because there is a unique need to manage entry into Atlantic Beach.

Rivers said the NAACP has previously worked with the cities to plan the traffic pattern, and the organization will continue to monitor it.

North Myrtle Beach's Public Safety Director Jay Fernandez said the traffic shift at Atlantic Beach is the only change his city is making between the two bike weeks. He said North Myrtle Beach has worked closely with Atlantic Beach to plan the change.

"The city has endorsed our flow plan, traffic plan, as well, so I think we're going to have a great weekend," Fernandez said.

Rivers admitted he has noticed a decrease in discrimination in the last few years. However, he said the NAACP still feels the need to continue Operation Bike Week Justice.

"When people are being treated fairly without distinction based on race, you won't see us having this press conference," Rivers said.

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