American Legion post leader resigns, Ohio charter suspended after censoring Black history in Memorial Day speech

·2 min read

The leader of an American Legion post in Ohio resigned Friday amidst criticism following the decision to cut the microphone of a retired U.S. Army officer while he was speaking about Black people's role in the history of Memorial Day.

The state's American Legion leaders also suspended the post's charter and are taking steps to close it.

The actions come four days after the leader of the Hudson Legion and head of the Legion's auxiliary were involved in quieting retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter during a Memorial Day ceremony.

"The American Legion Department of Ohio does not hold space for members, veterans, or families of veterans who believe that censoring black history is acceptable behavior," read a Friday statement.

What did he say? Read a draft of speech by veteran silenced at Hudson Memorial Day service

Suzette Heller, the state Legion's department adjutant, said the Hudson post has 60 days to respond to the state's formal complaint.

"I don’t believe they will get members to show [for a meeting], much less vote, to keep the post open at this point," Heller told the Akron Beacon Journal of the USA TODAY Network on Friday.

In this image captured from Hudson public access television, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter gives a Memorial Day speech in Hudson.
In this image captured from Hudson public access television, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter gives a Memorial Day speech in Hudson.

After the Hudson post is given a chance to respond, the American Legion Department of Ohio will retrieve all possessions of the post and move its 58 members to another nearby post, Heller said.

The Hudson post property will be secured by the state "within the next seven days," Heller said.

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Both Jim Garrison, the post leader who resigned Friday, and Cindy Suchan, who chairs the Memorial Day Parade committee and is president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, had been asked to resign after the state office's investigation determined they "intentionally censored" Kemter during his Memorial Day speech.

Suchan has not resigned, but Heller said her case is being handled by the American Legion Auxiliary of Ohio.

Garrison and Suchan also are being asked to make a "formal apology" to the city of Hudson, all American Legion organizations, its members, veterans and people of all backgrounds, Heller said.

Garrison and Suchan could not be reached for comment Friday.

Earlier this week, Suchan told the Beacon Journal that Kemter's mic was turned down because his comments about Black people's role in the history of Memorial Day “was not relevant to our program for the day," adding the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”

In its news release, the state Legion said it determined the "censoring" of Kemter's speech was "pre-meditated and planned by … Garrison and … Suchan."

"They knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up," the state Legion office said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio American Legion leader resigns over censored Memorial Day speech

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