Article 5
Sports Illustrated

Burk set to file suit if her Augusta permit isn't granted soon

Wednesday March 12, 2003 1:43 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Martha Burk says she's ready to file suit against city officials who have yet to answer her request for permission to protest outside Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters.

Burk, who wants to protest Augusta National's all-male membership, flew to Atlanta Tuesday to sign paperwork related to the lawsuit, which would be filed by the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Burk applied last week for a one-day permit to post 24 protesters at the front gate to Augusta National, with an additional 200 across the street, during the tournament's third-round April 12.

"If they don't approve it, we will file the lawsuit immediately because it's going to be necessary to get what we need to do the [protest] action," Burk said Tuesday.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronald Strength had not issued a decision on Burk's request Tuesday.

Burk's suit would challenge whether Augusta's protest ordinance, which city officials revised last month, infringes on free-speech rights by requiring protesters to seek a permit from the sheriff at least 20 days in advance. The sheriff can approve, deny or amend any request.

Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has played along so far. But she included with her protest application last week a letter threatening to sue if she did not get a favorable response by Tuesday.

Strength was expected to decide on Burk's application Wednesday. He previously said he opposed allowing protests directly in front of Augusta National during the Masters because of traffic and safety concerns.

The sheriff did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Burk said Augusta officials still might avoid a lawsuit if they approved her protest plans Wednesday. But she said ACLU lawyers would still need to work with city officials to iron out "constitutional problems" with the protest law.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has said it also plans to protest to support Burk. Others are seeking protest permits to oppose her, including a Florida businessman and a Georgia offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan.

Another group, called People Against Ridiculous Protests, has requested permission to rally against all of them.

"Everybody thinks it's so ridiculous," said Deke Wiggins, a grain broker who says 200 people have signed on to protest the other protesters. "It didn't take much tempting to get them on the bandwagon."