South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley calls for end to Atlantic Beach Bikefest
CONWAY - Prompted by a weekend rash of violence that left three people dead, Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday called for an end to a Memorial Day bike rally in the Myrtle Beach area.
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"It is time for that Bikefest to come to an end, and that is the way that I am going to talk to the elected officials of Atlantic Beach," Haley told reporters in Conway after meeting with area leaders, including Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes.
Police have not directly linked the violence with the bikers, thousands of whom flocked to tiny Atlantic Beach over the weekend, spilling over into nearby areas.
Haley also said that she wants to meet with Atlantic Beach leaders to discuss how to boost the economy and tourism for the area without Bikefest, which attracts mainly black bikers. Atlantic Beach Mayor Jake Evans said that he will do what he can to help surrounding areas control the spillover crowds who arrive for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest but said the town has no plans to cancel or significantly change the event.
"I've talked to different business owners, citizens, participants, and everyone said it was a well-run event," he said. "Everybody just raved about how well-behaved everyone was."
Evans said that he plans to meet with other area mayors to see what can be done to deal with the situation.
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Dean said he thinks Atlantic Beach should be part of any changes made in response to the violence in other areas of the Grand Strand.
"Atlantic Beach should strive to be part of the solution," Dean said.
The other coastal communities must restore order during Memorial Day weekend, too, he said.
Rhodes says the General Assembly needs to pass a bill allowing municipalities to hire off-duty officers from other states to help during the weekend that includes the Bikefest and Myrtle Beach's Military Appreciation Days.
Earlier this month, Myrtle Beach hosted a Harley-Davidson rally. No major incidents were reported.