Burks Protest Draws Small Crowd

RSS

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Martha Burk and her small group of supporters brought their fight against Augusta National to the Masters on Saturday, saying the millionaires in the elite club were terrified that the protest would force them to admit a woman member.
 
Burk railed against local officials for isolating the protest in a weedy lot a half-mile from the front gates of the club. That allowed most of the golfers, fans and green jacket-wearing club members to walk inside without seeing the demonstrators.
 
'Don't you find it a little ironic that we can stand on the front steps of the Supreme Court and can march in groups larger than four in front of the White House, but we can't get to the front gates of Augusta National Inc.?' Burk said. 'What do you think these boys are afraid of?'
 
Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, and her supporters say the club is guilty of sex discrimination.
 
Saturday's protest, which began as the rain-delayed tournament was completing its second round, was much smaller than the 200 demonstrators Burk had predicted. There were about 10 speakers onstage -- including U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. -- and about 30 supporters. They were outnumbered by police officers sent to keep the peace in a nearly empty field set aside for demonstrations.
 
Yet Burk's supporters said they had thousands of people behind them.
 
'This is not just one woman battling Hootie,' said 25-year-old Jessica Terlikowskia, referring to the Augusta National chairman, Hootie Johnson. 'It's definitely to show that she's not alone, and that many people recognize that for women to reach full equality, we have to have access to all places.'
 
Terlikowskia, a full-time activist from Washington, put up a banner targeting corporations with executives in the club. 'Women Play/CEOs Play,' it said, with the logos of Ford, General Electric, Citigroup, Coors, Coca-Cola and Viacom.
 
Johnson hasn't budged in defending the male-only membership, saying the private club is no different from single-gender organizations such as the Junior League and the Boy Scouts. To free Masters sponsors from the controversy, he decided to allow the tournament to be televised without commercials, costing the club millions.
 
The demonstrators and several counter-protesters are sharing a 5.1-acre lot that Sheriff Ronald Strength set aside, to keep the one-day protest from snarling traffic. Strength approved permits for more than 900 protesters at the site, though only a fraction of that was expected.
 
He had warned that anyone protesting closer to the golf club gates would be arrested.
 
The site is just across the street from the edge of the course, but a large fence, trees and heavy brush prevents anyone inside from seeing or hearing the protest. Most fans and club members didn't even have to pass the protest site to get into the course entrances.
 
Some fans walking to the course stopped to talk to protesters and buy anti-Burk T-shirts and buttons.
 
At least 100 police cars were parked in the lot to separate the groups from each other. About half the site was designated for Burk's group and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Jackson said he would not attend.
 
The rest of the lot was broken up into sections for rival protesters. They include Todd Manzi of Tampa, Fla., Burk's self-appointed nemesis, and Joseph J. Harper of Cordele, Ga., the leader of a Ku Klux Klan splinter group.
 
Adding to the free-speech free-for-all was Dave Walker of Atlanta, a one-man pro-war rally whose baseball cap says 'Give War a Chance,' and an anti-Jackson group called Brotherhood of a New Destiny.
 
A few locals calling themselves People Against Ridiculous Protests said they were making their point by not protesting. They planted their banners -- one saying 'Look at all the RIDICULOUS people' -- and left.
 
'We just don't want to show up and add to the ridiculousness of what's going on,' said Deke Wiggins, leader of the group.
 
Several people arrived to criticize Burk for focusing so much attention on a golf club while the nation is at war.
 
'As a woman, I wouldn't waste that much money and effort to try to be part of an association that doesn't want women,' said Katie Parks, 25, of Washington.
 
Burk initially sought permission to post 24 protesters on either side of the wrought iron gate where players and club members enter the grounds, and 200 more across the street.
 
The sheriff denied her a permit to get that close, saying protesters would be a dangerous distraction to Masters fans walking and driving to the course. Burk sued, but a federal judge and an appeals court upheld Strength's decision.
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • Photo Gallery
  • Augusta National Course Tour
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.