Posted on May 31, 2005

Federal Court Orders Equal Treatment For Black Tourists, May 31

Court grants preliminary injunction to stop the city from discriminating against black bikers

Myrtle Beach, SC — The U.S. District Court in South Carolina today agreed with the NAACP that the City of Myrtle Beach must stop discriminating against African American motorcyclists during their annual meeting in the South Carolina beach city during the Memorial Day weekend. It is the only weekend each year when the majority of tourists in the City are African American and the only weekend each year when the City implements a restrictive traffic plan requiring all traffic to one-way for 60 blocks.

The Court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the city from implementing a restrictive one-way traffic pattern along a major city boulevard during “Black Bike Week” unless they do the same thing during a predominately white annual motorcycle event called “Harley Week.” The city is free to implement one-way, two-way or another traffic pattern, “but only if implemented for both events,” the Court said.


Each year, in May, two large motorcycle rallies are held in the Myrtle Beach area. In mid-May, thousands of predominately white motorcyclists and tourists come to Myrtle Beach for an event known as “Harley Week.” A week later, over Memorial Day weekend, a similar number of black tourists attend a similar motorcycle rally in the Myrtle Beach area, known as “Black Bike Week.” The treatment of the tourists for each event is starkly different.

The white Harley Week tourists are wholeheartedly welcomed by the Myrtle Beach government, businesses, and community leaders. When the black tourists arrive, restaurants close, hotels implement special policies, and the City restricts travel along the main drag of Myrtle Beach — Ocean Boulevard, which is converted into an oppressive one-way traffic pattern that restricts traffic with limited exit points. The City’s police department also deploys triple the number of police officers to enforce a one-time “zero tolerance” policy aimed at black tourists.


Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride testified during his deposition that the city “welcomes” white tourists during Harley Week, and tries to “discourage” the Black Bike Week tourists from visiting. McBride said he does not consider the African American tourists to be law-abiding. He testified: “They want to disregard the law and sit on the tops of their car and smoke dope and drink and do whatever they want to and disregard everything.” In contrast to the Black Bike Week tourists, McBride testified that “when you tell a group of white youth to behave or you’re going to jail, for the most part, they behave . . .”