American Legion Officials Step Down After Muting Mic of Veteran Speaking About Black History
Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter had his microphone intentionally muted while speaking about former enslaved people who helped commemorate dead soldiers at the end of the Civil War
An American Legion official in Ohio has resigned after he lowered the volume on a 77-year-old veteran's microphone during a Memorial Day ceremony where he was discussing Black history.
Post Officer Jim Garrison stepped down from his position at American Legion Post 464 at the request of Ohio American Legion Commander Roger Friend, the organization said in a statement issued Friday.
The American Legion Department of Ohio said the decision came after Garrison and Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, were found to have purposefully muted retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter's microphone during a Memorial Day ceremony hosted at Post 464 in Hudson, Ohio.
Kemter's microphone was muted just as he spoke about several freed Black enslaved people who gave proper burials to dead Union soldiers at a Confederate prisoner of war camp. They also decorated their graves with flowers and organized a parade for them, according to the Ohio American Legion.
"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 organization said.
"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," they concluded. "They knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up. "
Footage of the incident, which was filmed by Hudson Community Television and can be viewed above, shows Kemter telling organizers about the problem after his mic was cut.
"I assumed it was a technical glitch," Kemter told the Washington Post at the time.
Despite being muted, Kemter continued on with his speech, inciting people to move closer to hear him.
After the incident, the Akron Beacon Journal said organizers attempted to censor this portion of Kemter's 11-minute speech because they believed it was "not relevant for the program."
"We asked him to modify his speech, and he chose not to do that," Suchan said in comments made to the Beacon Journal. Garrison has not publicly commented on the incident and did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.
On Friday, the American Legion Auxiliary of Ohio requested Suchan's resignation. On Monday they announced that "all parties involved in the events that occurred at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Hudson Post have resigned."
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In their statement, the Ohio American Legion said there was "good and sufficient cause" to "revoke, cancel or suspend" Post 464 altogether.
"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," they said. "We will continue to educate the value of diversity. Being different amongst each other is what makes us better – together."
In a response to PEOPLE, a Post 464 representative said a closure would have to be approved by national headquarters, which likely may not happen until their next meeting in August.