Here’s the latest in the Myrtle Beach, NAACP discrimination lawsuit

Following years of contention between Myrtle Beach and the NAACP over the Memorial Day weekend traffic detour, the city claims discrimination issues are no longer in question.

Last week, Myrtle Beach asked a judge to issue summary judgment in its favor in lawsuit filed by the NAACP. Myrtle Beach officials say the civil rights group can’t prove the city “intentionally discriminated” against anyone during Atlantic Week Bikefest, commonly known as Black Bike Week, according to court filings.

Summary judgment is when one side says issues are no longer in dispute and asks for a judge to end a lawsuit.

The move is the latest in an ongoing legal dispute between the city and the NAACP over a one-way, 23-mile traffic loop enacted during the Memorial Day Weekend event that sees thousands of bikers visiting Myrtle Beach.

The organization has long argued the city has been racist and unjust while enlisting nearly 500 police officers to maintain public safety, placing barricades along Ocean Boulevard and implementing the loop that funnels traffic from Ocean Boulevard out to the county before returning to city limits.

While one-way traffic runs on Ocean Boulevard from Friday to Sunday, the loop starts at 10 p.m. and runs to 2 a.m., but the city has canceled it in recent years due to limited traffic.

However, the NAACP has long decried treatment during the weekend and use of the loop, alleging it’s discriminatory, ruins Bikefest for the predominantly black crowd that attends each year, and isn’t used during other weekends, most notably the springtime Harley Bike Week that takes place in early May.

Myrtle Beach officials have previously argued the loop is needed as a safety precaution. The loop has been the subject of controversy since the city implemented it again in 2015 after three men were killed in shooting incidents during the 2014 Bikefest event.

The NAACP filed a lawsuit in 2018 over the traffic pattern. As part of that effort, the NAACP attempted to prevent the 2018 traffic loop, but a judge sided with the city. In 2019, the NAACP struck back asking a judge once again to block the loop, citing discrimination and an ever-changing city defense. But the organization’s attempt to halt the detour was again denied days before this year’s event.

The court’s denial stated that African Americans “do appear disparately impacted” by the loop, but Myrtle Beach’s use of the detour did not come from “discriminatory intent.”

The ruling noted the NAACP’s case isn’t without merit, but didn’t meet the requirements to issue an order to block the loop. Additionally, the ruling weighed the NAACP concerns with the city’s public safety fears and determined Myrtle Beach has the better argument.

In Myrtle Beach’s recent filing, it noted the loop is necessary to keep traffic moving and applies equally to both locals and tourists during Bikefest. It isn’t discriminatory because the traffic pattern’s “only adverse effect is on all people in the City of Myrtle Beach during Memorial Day Weekend, not non-locals as a whole,” the filing states.

The NAACP has also contended that the presence of nearly 500 law enforcement officials during Bikefest has caused attendees mental anguish. Myrtle Beach said the organization has not identified any incidents where a Bikefest attendees’ constitutional rights were violated, according to the filing.

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

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Anna Young is the Coastal Cities reporter for The Sun News covering anything and everything that happens locally. Young, an award-winning journalist who got her start reporting local news in New York, is dedicated to upholding the values of journalism by listening, learning, seeking out the truth and reporting it accurately. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from SUNY Purchase College.