Originally created 03/07/03

Burk, ACLU apply for protest permits



Martha Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to request two permits to protest outside Augusta National Golf Club on the Saturday of Masters Week - one for a group of 24 demonstrators and the other for an estimated 200.

According to the permit applications, which were filed with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office on Thursday afternoon, both protests are being planned for the intersection of Magnolia Drive and Washington Road, at the front door of the club's main gates. The sheriff's office has seven days to review the requests.

Ms. Burk said Thursday that, although sheriff's officials have indicated in recent news statements that they "may be inclined" to approve her group's protest permits, she believes the city's protest ordinance "looked like it was designed for applications to be turned down."

She has opposed Augusta National's all-male membership and demanded that the club admit a female member or be subject to mass protests during the Masters.

"I could see that space down there is limited," Ms. Burk said of the Washington Road area, which she visited last month. "Having said that, why should we have any less of a right to it than anyone else?"

Ms. Burk's applications request two separate protest locations.

One is immediately outside the National's gates, on the golf club side of Washington Road at Magnolia Drive. The group would have no more than 24 demonstrators at that site - 12 in the grassy areas on each side of the gate, according to the application.

The second application was filed for a much larger protest of about 200 demonstrators directly across the street. The only public space in that area is the surrounding sidewalks, officials said.

If approved, both protests would take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 12.

If the permits are denied, the ACLU and the women's group would file a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court noting their "constitutional concerns" with the city ordinance. Among those concerns is the requirement to sign a release that absolves the city of liability for injuries, damages or losses during a protest.

The ACLU has refused to submit a signed copy of that agreement.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he planned to meet with city attorneys today to review Ms. Burk's permit applications. During that meeting, officials also will consider a permit application that arrived in the mail Thursday from a Cordele, Ga., man who claims to be the imperial wizard of a splinter Ku Klux Klan organization.

Joseph J. "JJ" Harper said he wants to protest April 6-13 at a location to be determined by sheriff's officials.

Sheriff Strength said he did not expect the review process to take the full seven days his office is given.

"We have seven days," he said. "And I know well within the seven days we will know."

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