Lawsuit against Myrtle Beach over Bikefest set for trial this week

Lawsuit against Myrtle Beach over Bikefest set for trial this week
A lawsuit centering around Bikefest is set to go to trial this week. (Source: WMBF News file photo)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – A federal lawsuit filed against the city of Myrtle Beach that centers around the Atlantic Beach Bikefest is scheduled for trial this week.

A scheduling order filed in the U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina, states the suit brought by the NAACP in 2018 against the city and its police department is subject to being called for trial on Nov. 30.

Jury selection took place starting Oct. 13, according to online court records.

A trial brief filed on Dec. 1 by attorneys for the plaintiffs states, “the Court should permit the NAACP to continue to pursue its claims under both the organizational and associational standing doctrines.”

According to the U.S. District Court’s clerk of courts office, the trial is set to pick up on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

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The NAACP’s lawsuit accuses the city of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Police Department of implementing policies that discriminate against the mostly African-American attendees of Bikefest, which is also known as Black Bike Week.

They allege that participants in Black Bike Week are trapped in a 23-mile traffic loop and that they have seen a militaristic police presence that is implemented by the city of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Police Department.

The NAACP argues that the same policies are not in place during “Harley Week,” where the majority of the attendees are white.

“The record is replete with, and the NAACP’s testifying witness will expand upon, evidence that member requests for services in relation to the City’s treatment of Black Bike Week has overwhelmed the NAACP infrastructure that can be mobilized in Myrtle Beach,” the Dec. 1 trial brief states. “As a result, the NAACP cannot engage in the membership and voter registration drives it would otherwise do during this unique opportunity to reach potential new members and potential new voters who are largely African American and gathering in one relatively small geographic area.”

Back in August, U.S. District Judge Sherri Lydon denied the city’s request for summary judgment on the claim that the traffic loop, which first went into effect in 2015 following deadly shootings on Ocean Boulevard during the 2014 Bikefest over Memorial Day weekend, was based in part on race.

The judge noted the record contains several acknowledgments by city officials that the operations plan for Bikefest “was developed in part due to public outcry, and much of the public outcry in the record is racially inflammatory.”

Lydon did side with the city on two claims made in the lawsuit. The first deals with the claim that the traffic loop affects commerce, noting Myrtle Beach “would be working economic injury to itself by driving visitors away.”

The judge also noted that the city’s actions during Bikefest do not violate attendees’ First Amendment rights.

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