Augusta Officials Again Block New Laws Restricting Protest
For the second time, officials in Augusta, Georgia, failed to pass laws restricting demonstrations in the city in anticipation of protests of the all-male membership policy of Augusta National Golf Club at the Masters. The city commissioners, who are all men, deadlocked along racial lines, with white commissioners voting to restrict protest and black commissions voting against these restrictions, according to Golf Today. Augusta National expects protests in April during the Masters from the National Council of Women’s Organizations, under the leadership of Martha Burk, as well the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The proposed changes include requiring demonstrators to apply for a protest permit 20 days in advance; in addition, the new law protects the city from lawsuits that may be filed on behalf of protesters, according to Augusta Chronicle. Commissioner Willie Mays, who is African-American, told Polygon that “if [the existing protest law] was good enough for the Ku Klux Klan to march down the main streets of Augusta on a bright, Sunday afternoon … it’s good enough for people who want to hold peaceful, nonviolent protests.”
A recent survey by the Chicago Tribune finds that women, African-Americans, and younger people are more likely to disapprove of Augusta National’s male-only membership policy, with 52 percent of women against the policy compared with 50 percent of men who approve of the policy. “The gender gap is interesting,” Burk told the Tribune. “It says the people in power don’t see anything wrong with the status quo … Men look at it in the narrowest sense. To them, it only involves a golf club. Women see it as discrimination.” The most striking disparity is with African-Americans—78 percent disapprove of the male-only policy.
Some women executives and business experts have argued that relationships formed through golf can lead to career advancement and success in business—women who are excluded from male-only clubs such as the prestigious Augusta National are at a disadvantage. “Just look at the small number of CEO women,” Judith Rogala, a business executive, told the Tribune. “Golf is a microcosm of our society. Sometimes you feel like you don’t belong.” Maureen Grzelakowski, a top executive at Motorola, Dell, and AT&T, said, “The corporate leaders who put equality of women ahead of their golf agenda will really make a difference,” according to the Tribune.
Media Resources: Chicago Tribune 2/2/03, 2/3/03; Polygon 2/3/03; Augusta Chronicle 2/4/03; Golf Today 2/4/03