Governor Nikki Haley openly addressed Bike Fest and a string of violence along the Grand Strand over Memorial Day Weekend during a hurricane preparedness meeting in Conway on Friday.
Prior to the hurricane meeting and press conference, Haley met with local leaders to discuss the events over Memorial Day Weekend. During that private, closed-door meeting, Horry County officials tell News13 Haley was shown a five minute compilation of Bike Fest and Memorial Day Weekend clips found on YouTube.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus and several local officials were in attendance.
“I was very blunt with the elected officials in this area – which is there is nothing worse that a governor wants to see than Myrtle Beach on the front page of USA today in a negative light. In a time when we are trying to improve the tourism in South Carolina, trying to bring jobs to South Carolina,” Haley said.
Immediately after remarks of disappointment, Haley called for an end to Bike Fest – an annual event hosted in the Town of Atlantic Beach.
“It is time for that Bike Fest to come to an end, and that is the way I’m going to talk to the elected officials of Atlantic Beach,” Haley said. “I think it’s time for everybody in Horry County to come together to say, ‘No More.’ We are proud of our state. We are proud of the look of our state. We are proud of the actions of our state. We are proud of the people of our state, and the state deserves to be respected and the area deserves to be respected. It’s time for this activity to stop.”
Haley said the events of Memorial Day Weekend were not something to be proud of.
“This was not a good weekend. There was a lot of damage, but more importantly, there were deaths. This is no longer a law enforcement issue.”
Horry County and city leaders responded to Haley’s comments by revealing a task force will be developed to tackle the issues at hand. Several local leaders – including Lazarus, Rhodes and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Brad Dean – were in in consensus that Bike Fest must end.
“First of all, [Atlantic Beach] doesn’t have the resources,” Lazarus said. “Right now we’re having to extend resources. The City of North Myrtle Beach spent over $200,000 in financial aid to keep traffic flowing.”
The task force will include officials from local cities, law enforcement departments, the state and Haley’s office. The group will task local cities to devise reports, which will help local leaders develop a comprehensive plan to address Memorial Day Weekend.
Rhodes says Friday’s meeting with Haley was a start to finding a solution to the problem.
“She is on board and that is going to be a big factor,” he mentioned. “When you have the governor of the state saying, ‘Enough is enough. What do we [have] to do?’… then I feel confident.”
“How can you say this event was good for the area? This was a terrible event. This was very sad for those families,” Haley added.
As local leaders reel back from the weekend of violence and begin to move forward, one thing was apparent Friday – failure is not an option.
“We don’t have problems with festivals,” Lazarus said. “We don’t have a problem with events. We don’t need them when they’re uncontrollable.”
Earlier this week at a city council meeting, many residents and business owners as well as city leaders shared concerns and called for change regarding future Bike Fests. CLICK HERE for story from the meeting.
Five people were shot and three were killed Saturday night in downtown Myrtle Beach. CLICK HERE for related story about violence.
Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler identifies the victims as Jamie Williams, 28, of Ladson, Devonte Dantzler, 21, of Summerville, and Sandy Gaddis Barnwell, 22, of Summerville. He says all three victims died from trauma to vital organs due to gunshot wounds.
According to Captain David Knipes, one of the shootings happened between 6th Avenue South and 7th Avenue South on Ocean Boulevard after 11pm.
One main concern is the amount of law enforcement available. Although, Governor Haley said that wasn’t the case.
“There was a lot of damage, but more importantly, there were deaths. This is no longer a law enforcement issue. Our law enforcement was stellar. We had more than enough people; 273 we sent from the state. So it’s time the elected officials get together and communicate.”
CLICK HERE for story addressing this issue.