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Burk to sue after protest request denied

Martha Burk's request to protest at Augusta National's front gate was denied yesterday, prompting her to sue the city of Augusta, Ga., to get permission.

Burk rejected a compromise from Sheriff Ronald Strength that would have allowed her to use another nearby location to protest during the third round of the Masters on April 12.

Instead, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Burk's behalf. The suit says Augusta's law regulating public protests violates free-speech rights by investing "virtually unbridled discretion in the sheriff to grant or deny a permit."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition applied through the sheriff for permission to place nearly 100 protesters near the club entrance — the same spot Burk had requested.

Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, plans to stage a one-day protest against the private golf club's all-male membership.

She asked the sheriff last week for permission to post 24 protesters at the club's front gate and an additional 200 across the street. Strength offered a new location closer to the gate than sites he previously proposed, but they were not close enough for Burk.

"The men of Augusta National Golf Club come through the front gate," Burk said in Atlanta. "To influence those folks, that's where we need to be."

The suit seeks a temporary judge's order blocking the city from enforcing the protest ordinance, amended last month to require groups to apply 20 days in advance for permits to protest on city property. The law gives the sheriff power to approve or deny requests and to dictate the location of demonstrations.

Strength also gave two groups permission to protest at the location rejected by Burk. One is a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan based in Cordele, Ga. The other is an anti-Burk group from Tampa, Fla.


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