District court judge sides with Myrtle Beach for some claims in NAACP Bikefest lawsuit

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A district court judge is siding with Myrtle Beach over certain claims in a Bikefest lawsuit filed by the NAACP.

The lawsuit, filed in 2018 by the NAACP, alleges the City of Myrtle Beach discriminated against “black tourists” during Bikefest, saying the traffic loop was in place for Bikefest but not for “majority-white” Harley Week.

The complaint claimed that the two events “attract a similar number of visitors to the Myrtle Beach area” but “…the City deploys far more police officers during Black Bike Week than Harley Week and that the police officers utilize overly aggressive policing tactics against African Americans.”

“All citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law and have the rights of expression, assembly and association,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “The City’s traffic plan and overly aggressive policing tactics during Black Bike Week violate those fundamental constitutional rights. The Association will continue to use the courts to fight such blatant discrimination.”

In a 22-page court document filed and obtained by News13 on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Sherri A. Lydon sided with Myrtle Beach on several claims.

Lydon said the traffic loop did not discriminate against interstate commerce and that “any such effect” of the plan to benefit in-state consumers over out-of-state consumer interests is “purely incidental”. Lydon ruled that the City is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.

The judge also said the purpose of Bikefest was “social in nature rather than expressive” and therefore Bikefest participants’ First Amendment rights were not violated. The City is entitled to summary judgment on the First Amendment claim.

Lydon did deny the City’s motion for summary judgment related to “Plaintiffs’ Causes of Action Arising under the Equal Protection Clause”. Lydon wrote that a reasonable jury “could find race was at least one of any number of motivating factors in the City’s decision to implement” the traffic loop.

In May 2019, a judge issued an order denying the NAACP’s request to stop the Memorial Day traffic pattern.

Count on News13 for updates on this story.

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