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Ku Klux Klan planning Augusta protests

The leader of a Ku Klux Klan splinter group plans to demonstrate in support of Augusta National Golf Club's all-male membership during the Masters, whether the club likes it or not.

``This equal rights stuff has gotten out of hand,'' Joseph J. Harper, imperial wizard of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said Friday. ``We're not concerned with whether they want us there or not. We're concerned with their right to choose who they want to choose'' as members.

Harper wrote the Richmond County Sheriff's Department on Thursday, requesting a permit to protest during the Masters in April.

Augusta National, a private club that hosts the Masters each year, issued a statement disavowing any group that seeks to use the tournament as a political soapbox.

``Anyone who knows anything about Augusta National Golf Club or its members knows this is not something that the club would welcome or encourage,'' club spokesman Glenn Greenspan said.

Martha Burk, the lead advocate in pressing Augusta National to admit women members, said the club and the Klan deserve one another.

``It is not a surprise that the KKK supports Augusta National Golf Club, since the club embraces and flaunts discrimination,'' said Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations. ``It must expect support of a like-minded group.''

Told about the KKK's plans, Tiger Woods shook his head.

``If it's not one thing, it's another,'' he said.

Some say Harper's Klan group is nothing but a one-man show.

Harper says he formed his own Klan offshoot after a falling out with national Klan organizers in January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, says Harper appears to be the only member.

``He's the only member we're aware of,'' said Joe Roy, intelligence director for the law center. ``He's a very small fish in a big sea of hatred.''

Harper declined to discuss how many members his group has, though his request to the sheriff for a protest application said he plans to bring up to 25 people for the Masters.

But Harper said people expecting his Klansmen to wear white hoods and robes have the wrong idea.

``We'll probably be in either blue jeans or suits,'' Harper said. ``We're tired of poor, white trash calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan and the negative image the Ku Klux Klan is getting.''

Col. Gary Powell of the Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff's Department said five groups have requested demonstration permits for Masters week, beginning April 7. They include the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Burk said her group plans to seek its permit application soon.


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