Eddie Dyer, executive vice president of Coastal Carolina University, took issue with one of my recent blog posts, in which I showed the video showcasing CCU students involved in illegal and risque behavior, the kind of thing that can be found on just about every college campus in America.
(Eddie is a friend whom I trust, and I don’t mind that he, or anyone else, sees things differently than I do.)
I compared it to the video the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce was showing to various neighborhoods, which was a collection of snippets of the worst elements of the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest.
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Here’s part of what Eddie wrote:
Issac Bailey, noted columnist for The Sun News, recently wrote about the Atlantic Beach Bikefest and took to task a woman who is trying to build support for spending more public money on security for the event. She is showing neighborhood groups an officially-produced video of what he deemed the “worst elements” of the week.
Law enforcement data clearly demonstrates that there is a significantly elevated level of arrests and citations during that week. So, video notwithstanding, her instincts are correct. The young men who were killed last year might be alive today if there had been a larger law enforcement presence. And those killings were, without a doubt, a “worst element.”
This effort appears to be a simple matter of concerned citizens trying to improve the odds of personal safety for all and the peaceful enjoyment of this community by all – locals, Bikefest attendees and other tourists. And a video of Bikefest attendees playing dodgeball on the beach would be of little value for making the point of this initiative, obviously.
Most of those who come to the Bikefest behave and just try to enjoy the wonderful amenities of our resort. If all of the attendees did so, the event would receive very little attention or criticism.
But a sizeable number of the attendees don’t behave and they don’t come here for our amenities. They come here to be lawless and licentious and the statistics are there to prove it.
... Recall that the same uproar from citizens occurred on the Grand Strand a few decades ago when biker gangs came here for an organized event and exhibited gross antisocial and criminal behavior. Recall that they were made to feel unwelcome. Recall that citizens put pressure on elected officials to shut down the rallies of those gangs. And recall that the gangs no longer come here.
That was basic democracy in action at the local level. Those currently showing the videos that Issac disparages are just doing likewise.
But on this issue, Eddie doesn’t seem to be fully informed, or he simply missed the reason for the post. I’ll detail why.
1) There are more arrests during Memorial Day weekend because there are more law enforcement officials here during that period than at any other time of the year - by a wide margin. If that number of police officers descended upon the campus of CCU during any particular weekend, the number of arrests at the university would also skyrocket. It’s simple math, and there’s a whole body of criminal justice research that proves this. Not only that, it is one of the primary reasons for some of the racial disparities in the justice system. For example, more white people buy and sell drugs, but because enforcement of the drug laws are largely concentrated in minority areas, black people go to prison for drug problems far more often than white people. It is simplistic, and often misleading, to take the overall number of arrests and declare that one thing is worse than another, particularly when you leave out exceedingly important context. I suspect Eddie knows all of this. If that number of law enforcement officials was put on the streets of Myrtle Beach during the Fourth of July weekend instead of Memorial Day, or any other, the same kind of large increase in arrests would occur.
2) Eddie has fallen into the trap that many others have, seemingly attributing every bad thing that weekend to Bikefest, as though local criminals take the weekend off. Not only that, there was a triple homicide last May, a crime that is still unsolved. The early guess was that it was an eruption between two waring groups from the Charleston area who happened upon each other while here. Despite all of that, Eddie and others seem quick to lay blame on Bikefest, without all the facts even being settled. He wouldn’t accept that type of logic from his students, and he shouldn’t apply it to Bikefest. When a CCU student was killed in a residential parking lot, I’m certain Eddie did not say CCU was the cause of the murder - but rather that the murderer was. Why doesn’t that clear logic apply to Bikefest?
3) Eddie recalls the biker gangs and how the community responded, something I’ve written about several times before. I’ll go further than that. Not only did they do that to the biker gangs who came down during Harley Week - and got involved in an armed standoff on U.S. 501 with cops - they also did it in the ‘90s in North Myrtle Beach with rowdy spring breakers. Here’s where Eddie mixed up his examples and either missed or ignored my point. I’ve said - repeatedly - that we must deal with problems where they are. Period. That hasn’t changed. That’s not what the chamber video did. The chamber video helped create more unrest, more anger, more hatred, more distrust. I’ll say again: deal with the identified problems while not creating even more. On an issue as sensitive as Bikefest, we must not be led by anger and misinformation, no matter what the community is calling for.
Bikefest videos by some of the participants are more accurate about what actually happens - and violent crime is not a common feature. The number of felonies during that weekend number in the dozens, even though there are hundreds of thousands of people here. Last May included 8 shootings - we don’t know who was responsible for them all - which has not been a common occurrence.
4) Eddie would not be as accepting of any attempt to have CCU represented by the videos I put in the post that began this whole exchange. He wouldn’t, and for good reason, because those videos are not an accurate depiction about what goes on at CCU or what the university is about - as I said in the post. Had the chamber started showing that video during local HOA meetings to deal with the crime problems at CCU - and yes, crime happens at CCU, too - Eddie would be among the first people to condemn such action. He knows a democracy is not helped by misleading, inflammatory information, about Bikefest or CCU, or anything else. Given that he wouldn’t accept such a thing for CCU, why does he defend such misleading actions when they are done against Bikefest?
5) I’ve outlined many of the ways Memorial Day weekend can be improved to decrease the odds that a replay of May 2014 will happen this year or any other. And I will continue to. I’m under no delusion about the complexity of that weekend. I’ve been in the midst of it for years as an on-the-spot reporter, rode with police officers, walked with Friendship Teams, sat in hours-long bumper-to-bumper traffic, interviewed business owners who say people run out on tabs and others who say it is the best time of year. I’ve seen the ugly, the good, the bad, the banal, the boring during Memorial Day weekend from a variety of angles. That’s where I get my knowledge about the event. That’s why I know it is extremely important that we go about dealing with the problems associated with that weekend in a way that will lessen the anger and bitterness and distrust that is all too apparent. That’s what I did in that post, that’s what I’ve done in several columns, in several public appearances, in this post, and will continue doing so.
I suspect Eddie hasn’t been immersed in this issue as much as I have and can’t know about the tenor of the debate the way I do, how ugly it has gotten, how scary, even. It’s unlike what happened when the community was dealing with problems associated with Harley Week. That’s another mistake he and others make. They see that there was anger and a move against both and assume it is the same. It’s not. The way community leaders initially fueled anger and misinformation about Bikefest made things worse. I’m trying desperately to counteract that because I don’t want Memorial Day weekend 2015 to become something that puts Myrtle Beach in the same breath with Ferguson.
6) Finally, a few weeks ago I extended an invitation to any group or organization that wanted a fuller, saner view of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, that I would help lead discussions to provide context for what happens every May, based on the reporting I’ve done for the past two decades, as well as other research. I’ll extend that to Eddie and CCU as well.