NAACP Launches 4th Operation Bike Week Justice To Monitor Treatment Of African Americans At Seaside Resort

Hotline will assist those who may experience unfair treatment over three-day event   

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will again keep a close watch on the City of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and local businesses this holiday weekend as annual Black Bike Week festivities get underway.

For the fourth consecutive year the NAACP will conduct Operation Bike Week Justice to monitor activities in the resort town during Black Bike Week, the annual Memorial Day weekend gathering of African American motorcycle enthusiasts. Throughout the weekend, NAACP teams will be monitoring police activity and treatment of African American visitors, observing the practices of local businesses and watching traffic patterns.

In recent years, the NAACP and African Americans have filed and settled federal lawsuits against the City of Myrtle Beach and areas businesses for unequal treatment of Black Bike Week visitors compared to those who attend Harley Week, traditionally held one week earlier and a predominately white event.

"Any form of racial discrimination against Black Bike Week visitors will not be tolerated," said NAACP Field Operations Chief Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, and a native South Carolinian. "Closing businesses or refusing to provide equal services to Black Bike Week visitors that are provided to visitors at other times of the year, not only makes no economic sense, it is against the law."

Again this year, a complaint hotline will be activated for individuals to report closed restaurants, police misconduct or other unfair treatment. Black Bike Week attendees can report incidents by calling or by visiting Sandy Grove Baptist Church located at 1008 Carver Street [in Myrtle Beach] to file a complaint in person. Calls in previous years listed complaints against businesses for increased prices and noted police misconduct, frivolous charges and large fines for minor offenses.

Some progress has been made the last two years. Two more undisclosed settlements with offending businesses were reached recently. However, the NAACP remains concerned about the disproportionate number of arrests and the quality of police training in response to such large gatherings. Additionally, several establishments remain closed and continue to engage in discriminatory practices despite being aware of the lawsuits and Operation Bike Week Justice.

Moreover, last October the NAACP, the Conway, S.C. Branch of the NAACP and a Maryland resident were compelled to file a class action lawsuit against Friendly's Ice Cream Corporation, its local franchisee, Myrtle Beach Friends Boulevard LLC, and the franchisee owners for discriminating against African Americans by closing the inside of their Ocean Boulevard location during every Black Bike Week from 2000 through 2005 and only offering inferior services outside the restaurant.

"This degrading second class treatment harkens back to an era when restaurant lunch counters were reserved for whites only," said NAACP Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo. "African Americans were forced to eat substandard food, not regular Friendly's fare, outside the restaurant which was in plain sight and in proper working order. Such practices send a clear message to African Americans that they are separate and unequal."

In 2006, the NAACP successfully concluded every federal discrimination lawsuit filed in Myrtle Beach that arose from complaints by African American tourists who attended Black Bike Week festivities between 1999 and 2003. The lawsuits referenced unequal treatment of black motorcyclists by the city, four restaurants and a hotel.

Negotiated settlements were reached with the City of Myrtle Beach, Damon's Oceanfront and Barefoot Landing, Greg Norman's Australian Grill, the Yachtsman Resort Hotel and J. Edward's Great Ribs and More.

"The NAACP remains vigilant in order to ensure that all tourists are treated equally," said Myrtle Beach NAACP Branch President Mickey James. "We will continue to pursue litigation to right these wrongs."

As a result of the NAACP's hard work, several restaurants that were closed in 2005 and prior years have opened their doors and welcomed black bikers. And now, the Myrtle Beach Police Department uses the same traffic pattern on Ocean Boulevard from 29th Avenue north to 17th Avenue south, during the times of 2 p.m. to midnight on Harley and Black Bike weekends. Under a settlement agreement, the Myrtle Beach Police Department must also train all officers deployed during Black Bike Week on policing crowds and cultural sensitivity.

Numerous discrimination complaints have been filed with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission against other Myrtle Beach area businesses in previous years.

Black Bike Week is the only time each year when the majority of tourists in the Myrtle Beach area are African American.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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