Originally created 03/17/04

No protesters file for permit



Without Martha Burk, it seems, there's no reason to protest in Augusta during the first week in April.

As of Tuesday, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office had received no applications to protest during the week of the 2004 Masters Tournament, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said.

This differs from 2003, when Ms. Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, announced she would stage a protest during the tournament to draw attention to Augusta National Golf Club's all-male membership.

"We don't expect or anticipate (protest applications)," Sheriff Strength said. "The only reason last year was Martha Burk, and that brought in others - but they were protesting her."

On April 13, 2003, Ms. Burk's organization was joined by protesters and counterprotesters, ranging from supporters on the national level, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Feminist Majority Foundation, to opposing locals and out-of-towners - including a one-man offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan.

In late February, Ms. Burk announced that her organization would not protest the 2004 Masters.

Under the city's protest ordinance, those planning to stage a demonstration must apply with the sheriff's office.

The ordinance was contested in federal court as unconstitutional by Ms. Burk and the American Civil Liberties Union, but a judge in U.S. District Court upheld the city's law.

The case remains pending in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jack Batson, a local attorney for the ACLU, said that law is still being fought because other groups might want to protest in Augusta in the future, without restriction, and because the case deals with First Amendment rights.

Without Ms. Burk and her organization, observers say, there's no real reason to hop on the protest bandwagon this year.

But anyone staging an impromptu demonstration in violation of the protest ordinance will be prosecuted, Sheriff Strength said.

It's up to voters

Voters will be asked in November whether they want to approve extending the 1-cent sales tax beyond its estimated completion date in 2006.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.