On August 4, 2020, U.S. District Judge Sherri A. Lydon denied the City of Myrtle Beach’s motion seeking judgment in its favor on race discrimination claims involving the City’s response to Black Bike Week, a predominantly African American annual motorcycle rally held over Memorial Day weekend. The matter will now be set for trial on claims under the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Plaintiffs—the NAACP, its Myrtle Beach branch, and several individuals—allege that over the last five years, the City and its police department implemented a restrictive “Operations Plan” during Black Bike Week that includes limiting the main thoroughfare, Ocean Boulevard, to a single lane of southbound traffic for the entire weekend. The City also forces all vehicles entering Ocean Boulevard at night to travel a crowded 23-mile loop with a single exit, delaying motorists by as much as six hours. Black Bike Week is the only time of the year that the visitors to Myrtle Beach are predominantly African American and none of these traffic restrictions is in place during any of the other busy summer weekends when visitors are overwhelmingly white.
Citing dozens of racially inflammatory emails sent to City officials—and the City’s admission that the Operations Plan was developed, in part, in response to them—Judge Lydon held that there was sufficient evidence upon which a jury could determine that Black Bike Week attendees were treated differently because of race. The Court also examined historical evidence of discrimination, including the past segregation of beaches in the area and the City’s long history of hostility toward Black Bike Week.
Relman Colfax's litigation team is led by Reed Colfax, Tara Ramchandani, Kali Schellenberg, Angela Groves, Callan Showers, Joëlle Simeu, and Perry Abdulkadir, and is joined by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, and the Law Office of Peter Wilborn. Click here to review the Opinion.