Days After Waco, South Carolina Braces for Bikers

Bruce Smith, Associated Press, May 21, 2015

Tens of thousands of bikers are expected to descend on South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach area this Memorial Day weekend–and when they do, they’ll be met with heavy security.

Locals say there are rarely problems during the Bikefest in Atlantic Beach, a predominantly black enclave of just 350 year-round residents outside the popular resort town of Myrtle Beach. {snip}

As a result of last year’s violence, this weekend’s visitors to the area–an estimated 400,000 are expected for the rally or to hit the beach for the first weekend of the summer season–will be greeted by dozens of additional law officers, sidewalk barricades and a 23-mile, one-way loop to control traffic.


Following last year’s South Carolina violence, Gov. Nikki Haley asked Atlantic Beach officials to end Bikefest, pledging that the state would help the economically depressed community reinvent itself.

She said the town could showcase the history of Atlantic Beach, known as the Black Pearl. During the days of segregation, it was the only place on the Grand Strand–the 60 miles of South Carolina beaches between Georgetown and the North Carolina state line–where blacks could go to the beach.

But Atlantic Beach leaders would not end the Bikefest tradition, which has attracted black bikers to the area since 1980 and provides the town $60,000 or so in revenue on Bikefest fees–a big chunk of its $500,000 annual budget.


The state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says it will, for a ninth year, monitor to make sure blacks are not discriminated against by security measures.

“The NAACP supports reasonable law enforcement tactics designed to promote public safety and peace,” state NAACP President Dr. Lonnie Randolph said in a statement. “The Association will vehemently oppose any tactics that unfairly target African Americans.”

Myrtle Beach, working with other local governments, has spent months developing a $1.6 million safety plan that required a property tax increase to pay for.

Last year, a crowd gathered outside an oceanfront motel in Myrtle Beach and shots were fired wounding a man. Police say a shooter then went to the second floor of the motel and shot and killed three people. The case has never been solved.

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