Originally created 02/26/03

Augusta grants first permit for Masters protest



Allison Greene, the general manager of The Boll Weevil cafe, has - in hand - a permit to protest during this year's Masters Tournament, even though her demonstration is going to be more of a cookout than a calling out.

The 28-year-old native Augustan says her group of 15-25 demonstrators will include people holding pickets from their approved perch at Ninth and Reynolds streets. Like any protest, her demonstration will consist of activists uniting in support of a common cause.

But, Ms. Greene says, make no mistake about her downtown demonstration, which will rally support around the city and unite the community against outsiders' efforts to induct women as members of Augusta National Golf Club: It's not a typical protest.

"No chanting," she explained Tuesday from her downtown restaurant. No frantic waving of signs.

Ms. Greene's permit was approved by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office on Monday and was the first issued for use during this year's Masters.

It was the second permit applied for. An application to protest filed by a Tampa, Fla., man still is incomplete and awaiting a location request.

According to permit paperwork on file at the sheriff's office, both demonstrations will be to support Augusta National and oppose other, anticipated protests that week: one by the National Council of Women's Organizations and the other by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition expects to file for a protest permit by late next week, the group's vice president, Janice Mathis, said Tuesday. She said Rainbow/PUSH still is examining the city's recently amended ordinance "to plan for the best possible compliance."

They already have some questions about the amended law, though, saying it places additional restrictions on free speech. For example, the ordinance includes language that says protesters must "ensure public safety."

"Well, nobody can ensure public safety - not even the police," Ms. Mathis said. She said Rainbow/PUSH's protests are always peaceful.

The new protest law became effective after a Feb. 18 vote by the Augusta Commission. It means protesters planning to demonstrate during the golf tournament should apply for a permit no later than the third week in March. Sheriff Ronnie Strength has said applications must be made in person.

The 20-day time frame includes seven days for the sheriff's office to review the permit request before approving or denying it. The way the ordinance is written, even if a permit is denied, an applicant could appeal and the city would have only seven days to take the case before a judge for reconsideration.

Sheriff Strength said Ms. Greene was denied her initial permit application. She wanted to hold her protest at Riverwalk Augusta, which city law cites as an exempted location for demonstrations.

The group changed its location to rally at a nearby intersection. Ms. Greene says the protest will consist of her and her friends getting together to cook out, hang out and celebrate the Masters.

If Ms. Burk doesn't show up?

"If she decides not to come," Ms. Greene said, "it will be a pre-Masters celebration."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.