Public, leaders respond to Memorial Day weekend shootings
Mon, 26 May 2014 21:30:00 GMT —
With shootings this weekend in Myrtle Beach that left three people dead and four others injured, the public outcry was swift and loud.
While Myrtle Beach police have not officially connected the shootings to the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, which comes to an end today, the public and some officials have.
Comments on stories on the WPDE Facebook page and WPDE's Web site, CarolinaLive.com, illustrated both the tension and frustration of the situation.
"This can be a great event if everyone can just enjoy the event for what it is. Beautiful bikes, nice cars, it's a beach so people are going to dress for the beach.. Good Food. If you got problems with others then go to a nice quiet open area with your hatchets and bury them. We don't need the violence and crimes...Many different races participated in the event and where I was, many got along. I wish it was that way across the whole myrtle beach area. We don't need to cancel the event. We just need for everyone to know that violence and crimes don't make you look good." - Bron Sump on CarolinaLive
"Time to shut this 'festival' down indefinitely." - Dana Lee Jeffrey Blackman on WPDE News Channel 15's Facebook page.
"This weekend is supposed to be for the men and women who fought for our country, not to have to worry about leaving our homes and worry about being shot by people who have no respect for human lives!"- Laurel Douglas on WPDE News Channel 15's Facebook page.
An online petition has also been started that calls for an end to Bikefest. It has thousands of signatures. Click here to view the petition.
A Facebook page called Myrtle Beach Against Bikefest at last check had more than 14,000 followers just three days after being created. We reached out to the person who founded the page, but the person decided to remain anonymous. In a direct message via Facebook, the person speaking for the page said it was "a community cause, not just my agenda," as a reason to remain anonymous.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes was at a Memorial Day event Monday and we asked him about the shootings. He said he was out every night walking and observing and it's really out of control.
"People have to understand this is Memorial Day, this is not what goes on every week of the year in this town by no means," Mayor Rhodes said. "But, when you get national press because of the shootings, then people are going to stop and think, 'Well, what's going on? Is it like this all the time?' We have to make sure, through our advertising campaigns that we show that we're not a town that is out of control and we're not a town that isn't safe. We are a very safe town."
Myrtle Beach City Councilman Mike Chestnut said that while there is no official connection between the shootings and Bikefest it really doesn't matter when it comes to figuring out what to do next .
"We don't know if it's related, it could be but I want to wait and see and if it is. Even if it's not though, we've still got to deal (with) the tough decision," he said. "We're going to have to take a serious look at what we can do to make people feel safe when they come here."
State Representative Tracy Edge issued a statement and said "It is time that the cities along the Grand Strand and law enforcement take back the streets and make the Grand Strand safer for residents, business owners, and visitors."
Edge said he pledged to bring back state officers to help next year and help bring other law enforcement to help next year, so long as local authorities ask for the help.
"If asked I promise that we will see to it that we have every available state officer in this area to keep law and order and prevent these senseless shootings and killings from taking place," he said. "I speak for myself but I'm certain that the County legislative delegation would agree that something must be done. We will do everything we can to help local officials solve this problem."
You can read the full statement from Rep. Edge on the WPDE News Channel 15 Facebook wall.
We received this from State Representative Alan Clemmons who represents District 107, which includes Myrtle Beach:
" Memorial Day is a federal holiday established to remember American soldiers who lost their lives at war, to honor those men and women who fought for the freedom we enjoy as we light fireworks, attend barbeques and celebrate with our families and friends.
Unfortunately during this holiday weekend Myrtle Beach made national news headlines as violent crimes plagued Ocean Boulevard.
Due to the high volume of crime reports and large number of visitors, the City of Myrtle Beach has not yet had the opportunity to tabulate just how many crimes took place over the holiday weekend. The meaning of Memorial Day lost its reverence and dignity when someone chose to pull a trigger, end the lives of the three young people, and endangered the lives of countless others.
I stand ready, along with my fellow members of the Horry County Delegation to the South Carolina House of Representatives, to provide the City of Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach City Council with whatever state resources that the city may request in order to resolve the issues that landed our family-centered resort town in the national spotlight. I am confident and grateful that City Council is prepared to take steps toward a resolution as we move forward.
There were several hundred thousand visitors to the Grand Strand over the Memorial Day Weekend. As a tourist destination, it's easy to cater to visitors, but not at the expense of the safety of our residents and visitors.
My thoughts and prayers are extended to the loved ones of those lost to senseless violent acts, and pray that this weekend's events will not be repeated in years to come. "
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber President Brad Dean also issued a statement and said the Chamber would be working to help repair the damage done to the area's public perception as a result of these shootings.
"The senseless acts of criminals and unruly visitors have once again marred what should have been a stellar weekend celebrating our Armed Forces and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of America," Dean said. "Unfortunately, none of us are surprised, as the Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally continues to create unanswered challenges for the community and visitors. Safety is a necessity for a tourism destination to thrive, and no amount of publicity and promotion will counter the bad publicity generated this weekend."
"The issue is not race. The issue is responsibility," he said.
He said the chamber will be working to do what they can to counter the negative publicity and reassure visitors.
You can read Dean's full statement in a story posted earlier.