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MASTERS Burk sues Augusta to protest



Published: Thu, March 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The activist was denied a request to protest at the club's front gate.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Martha Burk is suing the city for permission to protest Augusta National's all-male membership at the club's front gate.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, after a sheriff denied her request to hold a one-day protest at the club's front gate during the Masters tournament.

Sheriff Ronald Strength had offered Burk a compromise that would have let her protest in another location, but Burk rejected the deal and sued instead.

The ACLU alleges in the suit that Augusta's law regulating public protests violates free-speech rights.

The federal suit seeks to block the city from enforcing the protest law, which was amended last month to require groups wanting to demonstrate on city property to apply for permission 20 days in advance. The law gives the sheriff power to approve, deny or make changes to any protest requests.

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition

Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition also applied for permission to place nearly 100 protesters near the private club's entrance.

Last week, Burk asked permission to protest April 12, during the third round of the Masters. She planned to put 24 people at the front gate to Augusta National and an additional 200 across the street.

"The men of Augusta National Golf Club come through the front gate," Burk said. "To influence those folks, that's where we need to be."

The sheriff said he did not want protests at the gate because of safety concerns, primarily because of heavy traffic.

"Every year with the masses of people around Augusta National Golf Club, we have many auto accidents -- some involving pedestrians -- during tournament week," Strength said. "We have the right and obligation to balance public safety issues with freedom of speech issues."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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