ACLU, NCWO Suing Over Augusta Protest Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia filed a federal lawsuit yesterday on behalf of Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, alleging that the newly passed city protest rules are unconstitutional. Earlier this week, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength–citing safety concerns–denied Burk’s request to protest the Masters Tournament at the front gate of Augusta National Golf Club. Instead, he offered Burk a protest site half a mile away on five acres owned by Augusta National. Augusta National downplayed the conflict of interest, saying it was cooperating with the county in the interest of public safety, reported USA Today.

The ACLU plans to challenge the new protest rules for limiting the types of protests, granting full discretion over the issuance of permits to the county sheriff, and indemnifying the county against all losses, regardless of fault. Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia, stated in an ACLU release, “Public demonstrations are quintessential First Amendment activities and as such, are entitled to the strictest constitutional protections.”

Augusta National is the site of the Masters, an event sanctioned by the PGA Tour, though the PGA does not own or run the Masters. The NCWO argues that by sanctioning an event held at a club that practices blatant discrimination with a male-only membership policy, the PGA violates its own anti-discrimination policies. Moreover, there is “corporate hypocrisy that surrounds, feeds and creates this event,” said Burk to the New York Times.

The Feminist Majority is a member of NCWO, along with 152 other groups–making its total membership close to seven million.


ACLU 3/12/03; USA Today 3/13/03; AP 3/13/03; Feminist Daily News

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