The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is keeping a close eye on the city of Myrtle Beach and local businesses this holiday weekend as annual Black Bike Week festivities get underway.
NAACP Chief Operating Officer Nelson B. Rivers III joined South Carolina NAACP leaders on the steps of Myrtle Beach City Hall today outlining Operation Bike Week Justice–the organization's activities in the resort town during the annual Memorial Day holiday weekend gathering of African American motorcycle enthusiasts.
In March, the NAACP concluded a series of settlements of discrimination lawsuits that grew out of complaints by African American tourists who attended Black Bike Week festivities between 1999 and 2003. The suits arose from different treatment of Black Bike Week visitors and those who attend Harley Week, traditionally held one week earlier and a predominately white event. Black Bike Week is the only time each year when the majority of tourists in the Myrtle Beach area are African American.
"The NAACP's lawsuits and settlements against the city of Myrtle Beach and area businesses should send a strong message that any form of racial discrimination against Black Bike Week visitors will not be tolerated," said Rivers, a native South Carolinian. ?After more than three years of ongoing litigation the time has come for all businesses and local governments to do the right thing and treat all visitors to this community with dignity and respect.
"Closing your businesses or refusing to provide equal services to Black Bike Week visitors that are provided to Harley Week visitors, or visitors at other times of the year, not only makes no economic sense, it is against the law," Rivers said to beachside business interests.
Throughout the weekend, NAACP teams will be monitoring police activity and treatment of black tourists, observing the practices of local businesses and watching traffic patterns to make sure settled commitments are honored.
In addition, a complaint hotline will be set up for those who may experience unfair treatment. Black Bike Week attendees can report incidents by calling (888) 362-8683.
"Operation Bike Week Justice is about ensuring freedom and equality for those who want to come and spend their hard earned money in Myrtle Beach," said Quentin Tyris James, president of the South Carolina NAACP Youth & College Division.
The lawsuits referenced unequal treatment of black motorcyclists by the city, four restaurants and a hotel. Numerous discrimination complaints have been filed with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission against other Myrtle Beach area businesses in previous years.
Negotiated settlements were reached with the city of Myrtle Beach, Damon?s Oceanfront and Barefoot Landing, Greg Norman' s Australian Grill, the Yachtsman Resort Hotel and J. Edward' s Great Ribs and More.
The NAACP Legal Department, the Washington, D.C. and Miami offices of Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P.; the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights; Steptoe & Johnson LLP and the Charleston law firm of Derfner, Altman & Wilborn represented plaintiffs in the suits.
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