Two Ohio American Legion officials involved in turning down an Army veteran’s microphone as he spoke about the Black history of Memorial Day have since resigned.
Cindy Suchan and Jim Garrison — the president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary and the adjutant of the American Legion Post 464, respectively — both resigned after news of the Memorial Day speech began garnering attention. Garrison resigned on Friday after the Ohio American Legion “demanded he step down,” according to the Associated Press, and Suchan resigned over the weekend.
The Hudson American Legion post was also suspended. The Ohio American Legion said in a press release on Tuesday that the temporary suspension “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 resignations stem from a Memorial Day speech from Barnard Kemter, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. Kemter, who served in the Army from 1965 to 1995, was invited to speak at an Ohio cemetery on Memorial Day and told the Washington Post that he wanted to take the opportunity to “educate people” about “why we were celebrating it.”
In his speech, Kemter spoke about how the first Memorial Day is believed to have been celebrated by a group of freed Black slaves. While giving that portion of the speech, Kemter’s microphone was turned down, causing him to believe it was a technical issue. But the audio engineer helping with the event later told him he’d been ordered to turn off the microphone, and when he refused, Garrison turned down the volume himself, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Suchan told the Journal that either she or Garrison were the ones to turn down the audio.
Kemter told the Post the American Legion had taken it “upon themselves to censor my speech and deny me my First Amendment right” to freedom of speech.
A press release from the Ohio American Legion on Friday said the department was “deeply saddened” and “does not hold space for members, veterans, or families of veterans who believe the censoring of [Black] history is acceptable behavior.”
“We discovered that the censoring that occurred at the Memorial Day Ceremony in Hudson, Ohio … was premeditated and planned by Jim Garrison and Cindy Suchan,” the release said. “They knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up.”
Featured photo: Army veteran, Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, tests his microphone during a speech at a Memorial Day ceremony in Ohio. (Screenshot from Hudson Community Television)