JULY 28, 2010
ATLANTIC BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
ATLANTIC BEACH CONCERNED CITIZENS, 843-655-4811
ATLANTIC BEACH LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION, 843-853-7255
Police Seize South Carolina Church, Arrest Pastor and Husband
Councilwoman-elect Rev. Windy Price was arrested in church with her
Husband, Darnell and charged with interfering with the police. Chief Eric Lewis and Lt. Randy Fisher of the Atlantic Beach Police Department emptied the church of its worshippers, threatened to put the Price’s nine-year old son in juvenile jail when he asked if he could go back inside to retrieve some personal items. Chief Lewis taped off the church with yellow and black crime scene tape and called a locksmith who changed the locks on the door. When asked why he was changing the locks, Lewis said, “I asked if any of you had the key and no one said anything.” The Price’s had already been taken away when Lewis asked about a key to the church.
According to Chief Lewis, he had taped the church earlier and meant there was to be no service in the church. “Someone removed my tape which is the reason for the charge of interfering with police, said Lewis and his Lt. Randy Fisher. After Lewis and Fisher arrested the Prices, they called an Horry County police van to take the other worshippers to jail but decided against it after the van arrived. Amy Breunig, a member of Atlantic Beach Concerned Citizens and the Atlantic Beach Landowners Association filed a discrimination lawsuit against the town earlier this year. “I think they would have taken all of them but they did not want to take me, the only white worshipper in the congregation today. Aside and very quietly Chief Lewis asked me to leave and I wouldn’t,” said Ms. Breunig.
“The arrest is a continuous pattern by the town of Atlantic Beach to close the CME Church and force Rev. Price, her family and members that live in the Housing Authority of Atlantic Beach out of town,” said Patricia Bellamy, President of the Atlantic Beach Concerned Citizens and a resident of the Housing Authority.
The Price’s and the CME Church have filed several lawsuits against the Town for interfering with worship services at the church and most recently a civil rights lawsuit about the violation of human rights and civil rights in the town of Atlantic Beach. The Atlantic Beach police arrested Mr. Price once before alleging that noise coming from the church during Sunday morning worship service was too loud. They also arrested Mayor Retha Pierce for an alleged hit and run accident as she was on her way into worship service at the CME Church.
Defeated Councilwomen Charlene Taylor and Josephine Isom who lost the 2009 town council election to Rev. Price still remain seated while the election protest winds its way to the South Carolina Supreme Court where the town’s last two elections have been decided. Booker’s wife, Lynda is a member of the town’s election commission. Last year she wrote a letter to a landlord asking that he evict Rev. Price from the home in which she was residing to prevent her from having a legal residence in the town at election time. “They [Taylor, Isom, and the Bookers] use the town’s police department to harass their political opponents, our church members, and Housing Authority residents” said Derrick Stanley, a youth minister at the church and resident of the Housing Authority.
Rev. Price founded the Atlantic Beach Concerned Citizens to address the town’s numerous civil rights and human rights violations. After Rev. Price won as a write-in candidate in the November 2009 town council election, the defeated candidates and town manager, William Booker allege that the church did not pass a building inspection. They gave Rev. Price a list of items that needed to be repaired and when her husband, a contractor, began the work, they issued a stop work order. The town’s building inspector gave Rev. Price a list of things that allegedly had not been completed though Chief Lewis admits they did not go inside the building to check. “We didn’t have to,” Lewis told the worshippers.
“We are making calls to HUD and the U.S. Department of Justice everyday seeking their assistance, said Ms. Bellamy “It’s going to turn into a blood bath down here and folks are going to be surprised at who in the town, county, state and federal government have dirty hands in the land grab for this oceanfront property.”
North Myrtle Beach is the city that surrounds the predominantly black town of Atlantic Beach and has begun claiming the chartered town of Atlantic Beach as one of its precincts in violation of state and federal laws. The arresting officers Lewis and Fisher are former North Myrtle Beach police officers. Both Lewis and Fisher were forced to resign from the North Myrtle Beach Police Department in November 2009. The circumstances surrounding Lewis’ resignation were never disclosed. Lewis fired Atlantic Beach’s only black police officer after his wife preached a sermon at the CME Church and hired Fisher.
Members of the CME Church held service and fellowship on the street in front of the church until almost midnight. They will be at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center at 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning for the bond hearing along with attorney Adam Whitsett from the Finney Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina where Ret. South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice, Ernest A. Finney, Jr., past president of the Atlantic Beach Landowners Association practices with his son, Jerry Finney.
Rev. Price is an ordained minister in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Hoyt and Elder Gilbert of the CME Church were apprised of the situation in Atlantic Beach. Elder Gilbert said, “we are moving to protect the religious freedoms afforded all people under the U.S. Constitution. We are proud of Rev. Price, her family and our church family. They are not alone.”According to the National Conference of Black Mayors, Atlantic Beach is the last predominantly black oceanfront municipality left in the nation.