MAY 27, 2005 -- Tens of thousands of bikers are making their way to Myrtle Beach over Memorial Day weekend. The NAACP is there to greet them. The civil rights group is handing out flyers, making rally goers aware of "Operation Bike Week Justice." Bikers are asked to call a special hotline (888-362-8683) if they're faced with any discrimination. "We insist that you will not be targeted because of your race here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We will do all we can to stop this kind of treatment," says Nelson Rivers III of the NAACP.
The NAACP has filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming bikers at this weekend's black bike fest are treated differently than the white Harley riders who were in town last week. One of the main issues is the traffic pattern along Ocean Boulevard. The NAACP says black bikers are forced to use only one lane, whereas, the white riders get two. Bikers we spoke with say the one lane/one way traffic pattern isn't fair. "Once we come down, we're restricted to one lane. A lot of businesses shut down and we don't really have full use of the area like everybody else," says Chris Proctor from Washington, D.C. This is Proctor's 7th year at the bike rally.
The city says the traffic plan has nothing to do with race. "More traffic in a more concentrated area and so that's why the traffic pattern is different," says Mark Kruea, the city's public information officer. The traffic isn't the only issue. The NAACP says police let white bikers off easy. "We saw folks standing outside with open beer containers, police walking up and down and doing nothing," says Rivers. The city says that's not true. "I think our police department wrote 1,800 citations during Harley Davidson week." The NAACP says if a lawsuit doesn't change the city's policies, they may take the issue to the streets with a protest march.