NAACP vows to continue fighting the 23-mile traffic loop during Atlantic Beach Bikefest

Anson Asaka, NAACP associate general counsel, said the fight continues to stop the implementation of the 23-mile traffic loop during Atlantic Beach Bikefest. Asaka and other members of the NAACP gathered at the entrance of Myrtle Beach City Hall to discuss a judge's ruling to allow the loop to continue this year. The NAACP filed a suit in 2018 against the city and its police force stating the traffic loop is discriminatory. “This traffic plan is 23 miles of shame, 23 miles of humiliation, degradation and oppression,” he said. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Twice is enough for Benjamin Hines. He is not coming back.

“This city has shown what they think of me. It’s not a mutually beneficial relationship,” the Greensboro, North Carolina, biker said after the NAACP news conference Thursday in front of Myrtle Beach City Hall.

Hines said he has other options for vacation that don’t include spending money in a city that has instituted a 23-mile traffic loop “designed to keep us out or whatever.”

The traffic loop, Anson Asaka said, is the center of a lawsuit filed against the city of Myrtle Beach. And even though the NAACP motion to stop the loop again this year was denied, the NAACP associate general counsel said the suit will move forward.

“We are not deterred,” he said. “Our war continues. Our war for equality, our war for freedom and our war for justice continues.”

The federal lawsuit was field in 2018 against the city and its police force by the NAACP contending the traffic loop is discriminatory. The NAACP had asked a judge to stop the city from implementing the loop in 2018, but that motion was denied too.

The traffic loop was instituted in 2015, a year after three people were killed during the 2014 Bikefest. City officials have repeatedly said the traffic loop is necessary to help with public safety and decrease violence.

“There is no rational relationship between a traffic loop and stopping violence,” Asaka said Thursday.

Atlantic Beach Bikefest continues throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The four-by-10 block town surrounded on three sides by North Myrtle Beach is the origin of the event. Myrtle Beach has filled with visitors during the event throughout the years.

Asaka said the crowd is estimated at more than 100,000 people.

In 2005 the NAACP successfully challenged the city’s one-way traffic plan on Ocean Boulevard during Bikefest. The city was ordered to have the same traffic pattern for both the Harley-Davidson bike week and Bikefest after the courts found the city in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The 2018 lawsuit says the city is violating first and fourteenth amendments, and the city is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it took federal funds used for law enforcement motivated by discrimination.

Jermi Little of Hickory, North Carolina, said the traffic loop hasn’t stopped him from attending 22 rallies. But, he added, it has reinforced his stand on not spending money in Myrtle Beach.

“Not one dime,” he said. “I stay up in Cherry Grove and I come down here during the day and have fun. But, no, I don’t spend one dime here in the city limits. I don’t buy gas or water or food. Nothing.”

The institution of the traffic loop has also changed Alexandra Stewart’s opinion of the city and several of its citizens.

Stewart said she was a waitress at a national chain restaurant off Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach until a few years ago. She said she watched the restaurant management segregate seating for customers and replace utensils with plastic ware.

“I guess she thought I agreed with her,” she said of talking with a member of management about the seating arrangements one night during Bikefest. “She said, ‘I guess it makes you ashamed of your race.’ That was it. I complained to her manager and up the line. I didn’t work there after that.”

Stewart said she now helps the NAACP on Ocean Boulevard during Bikefest as complaints are filed.

Asaka said the city’s decision to implement the traffic loop has grown from a history of racism citing segregated beaches, Jim Crow laws and more recent comments from former city staffers.

And, he added, city residents have called the NAACP hotline to leave hateful messages.

He said the organization has saved messages calling Bikefest attendees “porch monkeys and the n word several times” and saying attendees are here to “rape and pillage.”

The hotline, Asaka said, is open for individuals to call about issues with traffic, intimidation by city officials and the police, businesses owners who have been adversely affected by the traffic loop and other reports of discrimination.

“This traffic plan is 23 miles of shame, 23 miles of humiliation, degradation and oppression,” he said.

The hotline number is 888-362-8683.

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com.

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