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Augusta, Ga., sets up new regulations for Masters protests

By The Associated Press

02.21.03

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — A divided Augusta Richmond County Commission has created new regulations for protests against the all-male membership at Augusta National Golf Club.

The ordinance, approved Feb. 18 by a 6-5 vote, requires protesters to apply for a permit 20 days before a demonstration. If denied, the protesters can appeal, and the city has seven days to respond.

Augusta expects the National Council of Women's Organizations and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to protest during the Masters tournament in April.

The city's lawyer said the old ordinance, which gave the sheriff authority to approve or deny protest permits, could be too vague to withstand a court challenge.

Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, had previously denounced the regulations as an attempt to stifle free speech.

Twice in the past month, a stalemate along racial lines stopped the commission from adopting the new regulations. The five white commissioners supported the new ordinance; all five blacks opposed it.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young, who is white, cast the deciding vote on Feb. 18 to break a 5-5 tie. In the earlier votes, Young was not able to break the tie because one black commissioner, Marion Williams, abstained.

Commissioner Bill Kuhlke said the successful vote was the result of a compromise that puts the city's fire department in an inner-city office building. In exchange, Williams agreed to vote against the regulations, setting up a tie for the mayor to break, Kuhlke said.

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