NewsLocal NewsSummit County


Hudson American Legion leaders resign after cutting veteran's mic during Memorial Day speech

American Legion Department of Ohio suspends charter
Posted at 3:13 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 17:26:49-04

HUDSON, Ohio — The charter of Hudson Lee-Bishop American Legion, whose post officer intentionally cut the microphone of a veteran as he spoke about Memorial Day’s connection to Black history during a speech, has been suspended, and the parties responsible have resigned, according to updates from the Hudson post and the American Legion Department of Ohio.

A Friday news release from the American Legion of Ohio stated that the department commander "has suspended Hudson Lee-Bishop American Legion Post 464 Charter pending permanent closure."

On Monday, a statement on the Facebook page for the Ohio Department indicated that the suspension was "temporary," and that a meeting of all current members of the post has been called and will take place at 3 p.m. on June 24 at the Streetsboro American Legion Post 685.

"The American Legion Department of Ohio understands the value and impact an American Legion Post brings to any community through its Pillars of Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, Americanism, Children & Youth, and National Security programs," the post states. "A temporary suspension of charter does not mean a full cancellation of the Post. A suspension of charter will allow the Post to rally its members to make a decision about the future of the Post and to seek new leadership within the election process when the Post suspension is lifted."

The Facebook post states that departments have the authority and right to suspect post charters, but also states that American Legion posts are "operated and controlled by its members."

"The matters concerning the incident on Memorial Day are still under investigation based on the complaint filed by Department and we are working with what remains of the Post Leadership to ensure correction and a formal apology," the American Legion of Ohio stated on Facebook.

Jim Garrison, the Hudson American Legion’s post officer and the man who was discovered to have censored retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s speech at Markillie Cemetery on Memorial Day, resigned as a post officer on Friday, and the American Legion has demanded that he resign his membership altogether.

“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,” the release states. “We discovered that the censoring that occurred at the Memorial Day Ceremony in Hudson, Ohio, sponsored by Hudson American Legion Post 464, was pre-meditated and planned by Jim Garrison and Cindy Suchan."

On Monday, the officials confirmed that all parties involved resigned, and told News 5 partner the Akron Beacon Journal that Suchan, who chairs the Memorial Day Parade Committee and is president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, has stepped down from her position.

During his Memorial Day speech, Kemter referenced historians from Harvard when he said, “Memorial Day was first commemorated by an organized group of freed black slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered."

News 5 was provided an original copy of Kemter's complete speech. Read it here.

Just before Kemter expanded on how the Black community paid tribute to Union troops, his microphone was cut off — which Kemter recognized — but he kept going and spoke louder.

Watch video of Kemter's speech in the video player below, as recorded by Hudson Community Television. Kemter's microphone is cut off at around the 50-minute mark.

Memorial Day 2021 from Hudson Community Television on Vimeo.

Suchan and Garrison “knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up,” the American Legion Department of Ohio release states. Before the event, Kemter gave a copy of the speech to Suchan, who asked him to remove the specific part of the speech about how Memorial Day was first commemorated by newly freed black slaves after the Civil War.

“These actions of Post 464, through its authorized representatives or officers in attempting to censor or suppress that portion of LTC Kemter's speech and effectively doing so by reducing the speaker system volume, constitutes a violation of the ideals and purposes of the American Legion,” the release states.

Suchan had told the Akron Beacon Journal that the volume was turned down during part of Kemter’s speech because “it was not relevant to our program for the day” and the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”

The American Legion Department of Ohio stated last week:

“We are deeply saddened by this and stand in unity and solidarity with the black community and all peoples of race, color, religion, sex, and gender, so that those who are exclusive of such persons will know that this behavior is not acceptable in The American Legion, in our homes, our hearts, our communities, in private, public, or anywhere. We will continue to educate the value of diversity. Being different amongst each other is what makes us better – together.”