It's been more than a week since 8 shooting incidents and 3 murder victims were added to the tally in this year's Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest.. I thought I'd let some of the initial reaction die down before talking about it here.
First of all, just because someone is black and they're here during Memorial Day weekend doesn't mean they're here for Bikefest, but in this case, they were. For the people in Atlantic Beach who deny this has anything to do with the annual gathering, please note the reverse is also true....just because someone isn't on a motorcycle and doesn't spend time in Atlantic Beach during Memorial Day weekend it doesn't mean they're NOT here for Bikefest....they were. Don't worry about semantics...nobody's trying to pin the blame or point fingers, people just want solutions. To this point, AB town officials have said next year's event will go on as planned especially since they saw no instances of bad behavior in their 4-block town limits all weekend. Let me take you back to your High School days for a minute. Remember when your friend's parents (or maybe yours) were out of town and the entire senior class came over for a party? People started parking in neighbor's yards, peeing in their bushes, leaving trash all up and down the block. The party was supposed to be contained in one house, but spilled over to adjoining properties...so it's not hard to point out that problems caused up and down the block were a function of the main party....in this case, Atlantic Beach. I know when you put someone in a corner and try to blame them for an event, it's human nature to push back. That's what AB is doing right now. They feel ambushed and are pushing back...refusing to take part in meetings with the Governor and the Coastal Alliance (leaders from area cities discussing common problems - like Bikefest).
Governor Haley came to town and said that the AB Bikefest must come to an end. Easier said than done. Even if AB decided to get out of the Bikefest promotion business, the crowd would still come. Why wouldn't they? There's a beach, a 3-day weekend and lots of people of the opposite sex looking for a love connection. What more do you need? You need supervision apparently. I've gone on record many times defending both the Bikefest and the Harley rally saying that both bring revenue to the area and that both should be welcomed as long as attendees follow the laws. This year shows a stark difference. Harley rally was bigger than recent history and had no incidents to speak of. Bikefest was as big as it's been and degenerated into mayhem.
So....if people are going to come next year regardless, we need to make sure our people are safe...and the attendees are safe from each other. In Atlanta, the city put an end to the annual Freaknik celebration but putting cops everywhere...essentially killing the fun without coming right out and cancelling the event. It's now just a memory. That's probably what MB has to do, even though the Governor says it's not a function of police numbers. I disagree.
About Memorial Day - I know it's a day to honor the war-dead and MB set aside the entire month to honor the military in hopes of supplanting the Bike rallies. Sorry to say that's not going to work. In theory, it's a great idea and nobody deserves a month-long celebration more than our vets, but nothing you can do will draw a-half million vets to MB during the month. It's a feel-good proposal that nobody would vote against, but the reality is that it's not a money-maker. If we were able to secure a major airshow or week-long event like a fly-in, that could be the start towards something big.
One more thing....and it might be uncomfortable. Atlantia's Freaknik was a predominantly black event. Shut down due to lawlessness. Urban Beach Week in Miami is a predominant black event. Military-style police presence all over the place to keep the peace. Bikefest on the Grand Strand...also predominantly black. Now there's talk of shutting it down. I know the arguement is that it's not a racial issue...it's more an issue of age and the younger attendees at Bikefest are more likely to start or cause trouble than the older folks here for Harley Week. I still believe that. Unfortunately for some, perception is reality...and when they see predominantly black events cancelled or degenerate into violence, it re-enforces stereotypes that they may have. You can add that to the tally board as another victim of the violence of Memorial day weekend.
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