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Augusta Protest Proposal Is Defeated

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Opponents of Augusta National's all-male membership claimed victory after the defeat of a proposal that would have hindered protests planned for the Masters.
County officials split 5-5 Tuesday on a plan to require demonstrators to give at least 30 days notice of their plans to picket. The plan also would have required the sheriff to approve the application within 10 business days.
The five commissioners who opposed the ordinance are black. The five who supported it are white.
Augusta Richmond County Mayor Bob Young, who could have broken the tie, was in Washington for a national mayor's conference. He said he did not know how he would have voted.
That means the National Council of Women's Organizations and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition can wait until just before the tournament in April to get a permit to protest.
``I'm grateful that at least half of the (commission) recognizes the ordinance for what it is: an attempt to stifle free speech and put off social change,'' said Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations.
Existing law requires protesters to secure a permit from the Richmond County sheriff before picketing on public property. Sheriff Ronnie Strength has said he will not allow demonstrations on property around Augusta National because of safety concerns.
The proposal could be reconsidered next month.
``I'm against Jesse Jackson coming to Augusta. I'm against Martha Burk, but they have a right to freedom of speech,'' said Commissioner Bobby Hankerson, who voted against amending the law.