Myrtle Beach answers NAACP lawsuit over traffic loop

Myrtle Beach denied allegations levied by the NAACP in a discrimination lawsuit and argues its motivation behind policies related to Atlantic Beach Bike Week are designed to make it safe for all tourists, according to a court filing.

On Friday, the city and police department answered a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and others in federal court in late February.

The crux of the lawsuit pertains to a 23-mile traffic loop implemented in 2015 for Atlantic Beach Bike Week held during Memorial Day week and commonly referred to as "Black Bike Week." It spurred out of the aftermath of the 2014 violence which left three dead and seven injured, after eight shootings were reported along Ocean Boulevard. The loop turns Ocean Boulevard into a one-way road and funnels traffic out to George Bishop Parkway and back to Ocean Boulevard.

City dignitaries said the loop purpose was to control traffic, ease congestion and reduce crime. But, NAACP officials say that isn't the case. Instead, it is discriminatory and causes people to navigate traffic for hours, according to the NAACP. They also point to the fact the loop isn't implemented for similar events such as Harley week and Carolina Country Music Fest.

The NAACP also asked a federal judge to issue an injunction to halt plans to implement the loop in the coming months.

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In the city's answer it denied that black tourists "have been met with opposition and resistance from City of Myrtle Beach and many local business."

Myrtle Beach also denied that hostility toward the week led to a number of restrictive policies that the NAACP challenged in 2003. Then, the NAACP filed a lawsuit then over traffic changes and discriminatory practices. A federal judge found that the city treated Harley Week and Atlantic Beach week differently. However, an appeals court stayed that injunction and the two sides eventually reached a settlement.

That settlement expired in 2010.

Myrtle Beach says it did not engage in treating the weeks different when the settlement expired. The municipality argued that it enacted numerous ordinances that applied to all motorcycle riders.

In the document, the city argues that some Harley Week riders were offended by the ordinances and felt the city was hostile to them. Some riders sued and many announced they would boycott the city. Events during recent Harley Weeks are now held outside of city limits because of the boycott, the filing argues.

Myrtle Beach also contends that there are different traffic control methods in place for any special event. The city also denied the length of hours the 23-mile traffic loop is active and also disagreed that there is just one exit.

"The [City and police ] admit their motivations for their policies are clear. Defendants seek to make the alleged Black Bike Week sufficiently safe for all visitors," the document reads.

The NAACP also argued in its lawsuit that violence is present throughout the year in the Myrtle Beach, but only Memorial Day Week is signaled out for differential treatment. However, the city denied that violence is the norm and pointed out that issues have decreased during Memorial Day Week since the loop's implementation.

Myrtle Beach denied it has discriminatory policies in connection with the week and asked the judge rule in its favor.