Augusta: Commissioners Reject Proposal to Stiffen Protest Laws
Augusta commissioners rejected a proposed update to the Augusta city ordinance requiring group demonstrators to apply for a protest permit at least 30 days prior to the event date. The commissioners are all men split evenly along racial lines—in this vote, all 5 African-American members voted against the proposed restriction on protest, and the 5 white members voted for it. The proposal, which also stipulated 10 business days for the sheriff’s office to approve or reject the permit request and 5 days to file an appeal, would have stiffened the existing law, which does not set a schedule.
Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), told the Associated Press, “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.” The NCWO is spearheading efforts to open up the male-only Augusta National Golf Club to women. Augusta National is the site of the Masters golf tournament, an event sanctioned by the PGA Tour, though the PGA does not own or run the Masters. The NCWO along with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition plan to hold protests at the Masters tournament this April.