The Atlantic Beach Bikefest, otherwise known as Black Bike Week, is the largest African-American motorcycle rally event in the nation and one of the largest such events overall. Thousands of Black motorcycle enthusiasts flock to Myrtle Beach, S.C. yearly, turning the beach town into an epicenter of fashion and entertainment for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
However, many attendees of Black Bike Week have alleged mistreatment from local businesses and authorities, citing that a predominately-White biker event, the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Rally, treats its revelers with a differing layer of regard.
This large racial divide between two of the largest bike rallies in the nation has prompted the NAACP to monitor occurrences of discrimination and related allegations via its “Operation Bike Week Justice” event. For its ninth year, the Operation, led by the NAACP South Carolina State Conference and local branch leaders, are taking notice of police activity and how Black visitors to Myrtle Beach are treated. Along with that expanded level of scrutiny, the Operation will also tally how local businesses treat Black patrons and monitor traffic patterns.
The Operation has an especially arduous task, as Myrtle Beach officials have announced plans to create a 23-mile traffic loop with just four exits, along with increased police presence, the hiring of 190 private security officers and establishing metal pedestrian barricades. Myrtle Beach officials passed what’s been called an “extraordinary events ordinance,” naming Black Bike Week an event worthy of that designation.
Adding to this level of preparedness, the City Council originally added in this ordinance that it would be unlawful for attendees to carry aerosol containers, backpacks, coolers, duffel bags, backpacks and other such items. The Council, perhaps realizing its folly, removed those limiting restrictions. It is not known what Myrtle Beach authorities issued in the case of the Harley-Davidson Rally, which began on May 8 and ended on the 17th.
According to a press statement from the NAACP’s South Carolina State Conference, the organization is only expecting fairness in regards to the Black attendees of the weekend event.
“The NAACP supports reasonable law enforcement tactics designed to promote public safety and peace,” said South Carolina State Conference NAACP President Dr. Lonnie Randolph. “However, the Association will vehemently oppose any tactics that unfairly target African Americans.”
“The overwhelming majority of Black Bike attendees are law abiding citizens,” said Myrtle Beach Branch NAACP President Mickey James. “They should be treated with the same courtesy and respect as all other tourists regardless of race.”
Operation Bike Week Justice’s inception is meritorious, considering that for the past decade the NAACP and Black plaintiffs have settled several lawsuits over discrimination allegations against the city. The NAACP and plaintiff cases pointed to the way Black and White bikers were treated at the respective events.
The perception that Black Bike Week is a cauldron of lawlessness is without a solid foundation, a fact which the NAACP says it supports. Given the events of the biker gang shootout in Waco, Texas which left nine dead and over 190 arrested, one would expect that a gathering of potential rivals would require the same level of well-placed security. Yet many observers feel that the police response in Waco to the mostly-White biker melee was unusually soft, thus heightening concerns that police would turn an even higher level of scrutiny on Black bikers this coming weekend.
The NAACP held a press conference Thursday at Sandy Grove Baptist Church to kick off the Operation. Like previous operations, a complaint hotline has been activated for anyone who wants to report of discrimination or misconduct of any sort. The toll-free number is: (888) 362-8683. Additionally, attendees can file complaints in person at Sandy Grove Baptist, which is located at 1008 Carver Street in Myrtle Beach.
SOURCE: NAACP | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty