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City of Myrtle Beach Sued for Discriminatory Treatment of African-American Tourists

On February 27, 2018, the NAACP, its Myrtle Beach branch, and three individuals filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction in United States District Court for the District of South Carolina alleging that the City of Myrtle Beach and its police department discriminate against Black Bike Week participants, who are largely African American. The Plaintiffs are represented by Relman, Dane & Colfax, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, and the Law Office of Peter Wilborn.

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 two separate motorcycle rallies. First, a predominantly white crowd gathers for Harley Week. A week later, a predominantly African-American crowd of a similar size comes to the area for Black Bike Week. The complaint alleges that the City treats the events differently because of the race of the attendees. The City seeks to make Black Bike Week sufficiently unpleasant that the mostly African-American participants stop attending the event and it ceases to exist.

During Harley Week, the City imposes minimal special traffic controls. By contrast, during Black Bike Week, the City restricts the main thoroughfare, Ocean Boulevard, to a single lane of southbound traffic. The City forces all vehicles entering Ocean Boulevard at night to travel a crowded 23-mile loop that has just one exit. The loop can delay motorists as much as six hours. Also, while as many as 800 law enforcement officers patrol the City during Black Bike Week, only 60 are present for Harley Week.

The discriminatory nature of these discrepancies is well known to the City. A federal court enjoined the City's traffic plan in 2005, finding that it was likely motivated by race and, therefore, unconstitutional. The earlier case was ultimately settled with a consent order that required the City to impose the same traffic plans for Black Bike Week and Harley Week. After that agreement expired, the City imposed a new traffic plan for Black Bike Week that is even more restrictive than the earlier plan enjoined in 2005.

The Relman, Dane & Colfax team is led by Reed Colfax, Tara Ramchandani, Ryan Downer, and Laura Arandes.

Noteworthy Pleadings