Burk wants to protest during Masters third round

Updated: March 6, 2003, 7:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The lead critic of Augusta National Golf Club's all-male membership asked permission Thursday for more than 200 people to stage a one-day protest during the Masters tournament, with a small number posted at the gate to Magnolia Lane.

Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, wants a permit for 24 protesters to stand at either side of the club's main gate, where a public sidewalk runs along Washington Road.

Burk is also seeking permission for an additional 200 people to demonstrate on Washington Road across the street from the club. The protest would take place during the third round of the Masters on April 12.

Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff Ronald Strength, who has seven days to approve or deny Burk's protest application, has said previously he would not allow protesters along Washington Road because of heavy traffic and safety concerns.

''The whole point of a protest is to reach the people you are trying to influence, and that would be the members of the club who come in through the front gate,'' Burk said in a telephone interview.

''We've asked for a very reasonable number of people there on either side of the gate,'' she said. ''It's not enough people in any way to disrupt the traffic.''

The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union delivered Burk's application to the sheriff Thursday, along with a letter saying Burk would sue if she and the sheriff can't agree on a protest location.

Sheriff's Col. Gary Powell said the sheriff planned to meet with the county attorney Friday to discuss the applications by Burk and the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which wants to demonstrate in support of Augusta National's all-male policy.

Augusta National declined to comment on whether Burk should be allowed to protest outside its gates.

''All matters like these are the responsibilities of local officials,'' said club spokesman Glenn Greenspan. ''The club has no involvement in permitting decisions.''

Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition is also expected to protest during the Masters to show support for Burk. Other groups have also asked for protest applications.

A Los Angeles-based group called the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) has contacted the sheriff's department, Powell said. He described the group as ''anti-Jesse Jackson, pro-Augusta National.''

And an Atlanta member of the New Black Panther Party has requested permission to demonstrate in Augusta next week.

''He wants to protest against the triviality of this whole protest'' surrounding Augusta National, Powell said. ''He says there are lots more important issues going on in the world right now, such as war with Iraq.''

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