Amended Complaint in the Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week Lawsuit

by | Feb 28, 2019 | Motorcycle Accidents |

There is an amended complaint in the Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week lawsuit.

Last year I wrote a few blog posts about the lawsuit filed by the NAACP alleging discrimination by the City of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Police Department during Black Bike Week.

Whatever happened with the lawsuit?

It’s still pending, and the NAACP added five new plaintiffs to the lawsuit in an amended complaint filed last November:

“The proposed new plaintiffs have each been trapped in Defendants’ 23-mile loop during Black Bike Week, some multiple times,” according to the lawsuit. “Furthermore, the proposed new plaintiffs have each observed and been troubled by the excessive, and at times militaristic, police presence implemented by Defendants during Black Bike Week.”

What are the complaints that are being made, and what does the amended complaint in the Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week lawsuit say?

How is the City’s treatment of Black Bike Week motorcyclists different than the City’s treatment of motorcyclists at the Harley Davidson Spring Rally?

What are the Allegations in the Amended Complaint in the Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week Lawsuit?

The only changes found in the amended complaint in the Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week lawsuit are the addition of five new plaintiffs. The allegations are contained in the original complaint that was filed last year.

The Complaint, uploaded to Scribd by WMBF, is extensive, but there are two overarching allegations: Motorcyclists are being unreasonably forced into a 23-mile loop with only one exit, and there is an excessive, sometimes militaristic police presence during the rally.

The NAACP says that the way Myrtle Beach is handling Black Bike Week is discriminatory because the Harley Davidson Rally, which is predominantly an event attended by White motorcyclists, does not have a 23-mile bike loop or the same level of police scrutiny found during Black Bike Week.

“Based on their experiences at Black Bike Week, Plaintiffs believe that Defendants’ policies are unjustified and designed to prevent African-American visitors from coming to Myrtle Beach.”

Five Federal Civil Rights Claims

There are five federal civil rights claims contained in the amended complaint in the Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week lawsuit:

  • A 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claim for intentional discrimination;
  • A 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for deprivation of First Amendment rights;
  • A 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for deprivation of Fourteenth Amendment rights;
  • A 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for deprivation of rights under the Dormant Commerce Clause; and
  • A claim for violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.§ 2000.

What does all of that mean?

The City Treats White Motorcyclists Differently than Black Motorcyclists

The heart of the NAACP’s claim is that the City of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Police Department treat the White motorcyclists at the Harley Davidson Rally differently than the Black motorcyclists at the Black Bike Week Rally:

Each year, during the month of May, hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country gather in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area for each of two separate motorcycle rallies. In the middle of the month, motorcycle enthusiasts gather for the Myrtle Beach Bike Week Spring Rally (“Harley Week”). The vast majority of the Harley Week participants are white, and the area welcomes them. Two weeks later, over the Memorial Day weekend, motorcycle enthusiasts gather for Atlantic Beach Bikefest (“Black Bike Week”). The vast majority of Black Bike Week visitors are African American and the event historically has been met with opposition and resistance from the City of Myrtle Beach and many local businesses.

What opposition? What resistance? What is it exactly that the City is doing?

Motorcyclists are Forced into a 23-Mile Loop

The NAACP notes that there have been a number of restrictive governmental policies that were first challenged by the NAACP and individual Black Bike Week attendees in a lawsuit filed in 2003. The main focus of the complaint, however, is the City’s traffic plan.

Each year the City implements a traffic plan – Ocean Boulevard is reduced to a single lane of one-way traffic, and, later in the evenings, all traffic is forced into a 23-mile loop that has only one exit…

In the 2003 lawsuit, the federal district court found that “the differences in the traffic plans between Black Bike Week and Harley Week were likely motivated by race and therefore likely unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit was then settled with the Court signing “a consent order that required the City to maintain similar operations plans for Black Bike Week and Harley Week for the following five years.”

So, why another lawsuit?

The five years expired, and the City immediately began to treat the two rallies differently again. Except now the NAACP alleges that the differences between the City’s treatment of the two rallies are even greater than the differences that were found to be unconstitutional in the 2003 lawsuit…

There is an Excessive, Militaristic Police Presence During Black Bike Week

There is a heavy police presence in Myrtle Beach during the Harley Davidson Spring Rally.

The NAACP claims that the City maintains ten times that number of law enforcement personnel in Myrtle Beach during Black Bike Week:

During the 2017 Black Bike Week as many as 800 law enforcement officers, including many from other jurisdictions, patrolled the City. Less than a tenth of that number were present for 2017 Harley Week.

Why is the enhanced police presence necessary? According to the NAACP:

The City’s motivation for the policies is clear: it seeks to make Black Bike Week sufficiently unpleasant for the mostly African-American motorcyclists that they stop attending and the event ceases to exist.

So, what are the differences between the two rallies?

There is no Bike Loop During the Harley Rally

The restrictive policies that the City has implemented for Black Bike Week are nowhere to be seen during Harley Week:

The City does not implement a formal traffic plan for Harley Week and the mostly white participants are essentially able to travel around the Myrtle Beach area just as they would on any other day of the year.

So, what is different about the two rallies that justifies the different policies? Both rallies are mostly attended by law-abiding motorcycle enthusiasts, some of whom are members of law-abiding motorcycle clubs.

Both rallies are also attended by some individuals and motorcycle clubs who can’t really be characterized as law-abiding – at both rallies, these people are the minority. Both rallies involve loud motorcycles, and both rallies involve a good bit of partying and drinking.

So, what is different?

  1. The Harley rally is mostly attended by motorcyclists riding Harley Davidson motorcycles, while Black Bike Week is mostly attended by motorcyclists riding “street bikes;” and
  2. The Harley rally is mostly attended by White motorcyclists, while Black Bike Week is mostly attended by Black motorcyclists.

What other difference is there between the two rallies that justifies the different treatment by the City?

Myrtle Beach Bike Week Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

The SC motorcycle accident attorneys at Coastal Law are located in Myrtle Beach, SC.

If you have been hurt in a motorcycle crash or have other legal needs while you are in the area for Black Bike Week or the Harley Davidson Spring Rally, call now for a free consultation to discuss your case, by calling (843) 488-5000 or emailing us through our website.

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Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.

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