The Hudson Lee-Bishop American Legion Post 464 Charter has been suspended by the American Legion Department of Ohio pending permanent closure after it was revealed that the chapter’s president and post officer conspired to cut out a portion of an retired Army officer’s speech about the role Black Americans played in the creation of Memorial Day.
“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,” a 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.”
According to the statement, Garrison has resigned as post officer and the Legion has demanded that he resign his membership altogether.
Cindy Suchan, who chairs the the Memorial Day Parade Committee and is the president of the Hudson chapter, has not resigned but her case is being reviewed. She is also being asked to give up her membership and has not specified whether she or Garrison turned down the audio of the speech.
According to a release from the state Legion office, “They knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up.”
Garrison reportedly called retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter to apologize for cutting his mic as he spoke about Black people’s role in the origins of Memorial Day during a May 31 speech at an event intended to honor Hudson veterans. About halfway through his 11-minute speech, Kemter’s mic was cut.
According to Kemter, while the first national commemoration of Memorial Day has been attributed to a ceremony that took place on May 3, 1868, at Arlington Cemetery, where both Union soldiers and Confederates were buried, Harvard archives of newspaper clippings and handwritten notes revealed that Black Americans also played a crucial role in early Memorial Day traditions.
As Kemter explained that Memorial Day traditions first began when freed slaves conducted a ceremony on May 1, 1865, his mic was cut. He initially believed the audio difficulty was the result of a technical issue.
Suchan told the Akron Beacon Journal Kemter’s remarks were “not relevant to our program for the day,” adding that he’d been asked to modify his speech but declined to do so. The state Legion said the violation constitutes “good and sufficient cause exists to revoke, cancel or suspend the charter of Lee-Bishop Post #464, Inc.”
According to Suzette Heller, the state Legion’s department adjutant, The American Legion Department of Ohio’s executive board members who attended a Friday morning meeting unanimously backed Department Commander Roger Friend’s decision to suspend the Hudson chapter.
The Hudson post has 60 days to respond to a formal complaint provided by the state Legion.
“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 on Friday “We are in communication with the members via email, phone and mail, about the status of their post. So far, no members of Hudson Post 464 have reached out to [the American Legion] Department [of Ohio] to fight for this post, that I am aware of.”
The 58 members of the Hudson post have the option to join other chapters.
The state Legion said in a statement, “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,” the state Legion office stated. “We will continue to educate the value of diversity. Being different amongst each other is what makes us better – together.”