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Burk Gets Chance to Be Heard at Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- After months of jousting with all-male Augusta National from her Washington office, Martha Burk readied her bullhorn to shout at the Masters' front door - at least from a half-mile away.
Burk and her National Council of Women's Organizations prepared to rally Saturday against what they see as sex discrimination by one of the nation's most elite golf clubs by busing in up to 200 protesters.
Or maybe half that many. Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson hasn't budged in defending his male-only membership. And Burk, stopping short of saying her cause has lost steam, acknowledges the spotlight has shifted in the weeks since war erupted in Iraq.
'We may have 100. I don't know,' Burk said Friday. 'It's not about numbers. I hope we have a good number of people to make our point, but we don't need a cast of thousands.'
They won't be alone on the weedy 5.1-acre lot that Sheriff Ronald Strength picked a half-mile from Augusta National's main gate to keep the one-day protest from snarling Masters traffic.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition planned to send 100 picketers to support Burk, though Jackson said he'd be a no-show.
Their protest plans prompted a number of rivals to line up on the opposing side. 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 planned to make their point by protesting in absentia. Leader Deke Wiggins said he intended to plant a banner in the field, then leave.
'We just don't want to show up and add to the ridiculousness of what's going on,' Wiggins said.
Strength approved permits for more than 900 protesters at the site, though only a fraction of that was expected. Still, he scheduled about 100 deputies and state troopers to prevent clashes between factions.
'We don't want to arrest anyone,' Strength told protest organizers Friday. 'But if any law is violated ... we will take that person or persons into custody.'
Strength warned that would include any protesters venturing closer to the golf club gates.
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

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