The top organizer of a Memorial Day ceremony in Hudson, Ohio, where a veteran’s microphone was cut off while speaking about the holiday’s roots in black history, is now facing calls to resign from the American Legion of the United States. state.
Lieutenant Colonel Barnard Kemter, who served in the United States Army as a combat medic from 1965 to 1995, was invited Monday by Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, as a keynote speaker for the ceremony in his hometown.
The 77-year-old veteran was preparing a speech on Memorial Day history, but had his microphone clipped by event organizers just as he began describing how freed black slaves kicked off the holiday.
This incident made headlines across the country and prompted the Ohio American Legion to launch an investigation.
Since then, one of the organizers, James Garrison, has resigned from his position as an officer of Hudson American Legion Post 464 and has personally apologized to Kemter.
Now Suchan is under mounting pressure to resign as well after Roger Friend, commander of the US Legion from Ohio, announced on Friday that he had suspended the Hudson agency’s charter pending its final closure.
The microphone was cut off from Lieutenant Colonel Barnard Kemter’s keynote address at a Memorial Day ceremony in Hudson, Ohio as he began talking about the origins of the holiday’s slaves.
“The Ohio American Legion Department has no room for members, veterans or families of veterans who believe that censoring black history is acceptable behavior,” reads a press release from the Ohio American Legion.
The release continues to say that cutting off Kemter’s microphone “is a violation of the ideals and goals of the American Legion. . . therefore, there is good and sufficient reason to endorse the charter of Lee-Bishop Post #464, Inc. withdraw, cancel or suspend.’
Kemter told TMZ he received a call the same day James Garrison stepped down, in which Garrison said he was “sorry for the events that happened on Memorial Day.” Kemter added that he had not heard from Suchan but wants to “move on” with the incident. Kempter did not respond to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment.
The Ohio American Legion posted this tweet after learning about the censorship of Lieutenant Colonel Barnard Kemter’s Memorial Day speech, in which he talked about the holiday’s roots in black history.
Kemter had turned his microphone off for about two minutes in the middle of his 11-minute speech, just as he started talking about how the holiday was born of a ceremony in which freed slaves honored deceased soldiers at the end of the Civil War.
“Several cities across America claim to have observed their own earlier versions of Memorial Day or ‘Decoration Day’ as early as 1866,” explains Kemter. ‘. . . But it was only a remarkable discovery in a dusty Harvard University archive University [in] In the late 1990s, historians learned of a Memorial Day commemoration organized by a group of freed black slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.”
“The ceremony is believed to have involved a parade of as many as 10,000 people, including 3,000 black schoolchildren who sang the Union marching song ‘John Brown’s Body’ while carrying arms full of flowers to decorate the graves.”
At this point in his speech, the microphone cuts out and Kemter sees it tapping confusedly before continuing to discuss the efforts of the black community in Charleston to commemorate the 260 Union troops who died at the site during the Civil War.
My generation grew up listening to the famous radio personality Paul Harvey. Paul would say at the end of his broadcast, “And now you know the rest of the story.” And now you know the rest of the Memorial Day story.” When Kemter finished this sentence, the microphone came back.
kemters’ speech was featured in a video of the event taken by Hudson Community Television and shared on his Vimeo page.
Suchan told the Akron Beacon Journal that the organizers wanted the portion of the speech to be excluded as it was “not relevant to our program of the day” adding that “the theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”
Suchan had told Kemter to edit his speech the day before the ceremony, but the veteran went ahead and said he didn’t have time to rewrite it.
Kemter said he wanted to use his speech to detail the history of the origins of Memorial Day, which, he said in his speech, began when emancipated slaves gave fallen Union prisoners a proper burial.
Many of them died in the Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, a battle in which many black soldiers fought.
The freed slaves reportedly excavated the mass grave and reburied 200 bodies of Union soldiers in a new cemetery with a high whitewashed fence with the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course,” referring to the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, South Carolina, where they were buried.
On May 1, 1865, reports show, a crowd of 10,000 people, mostly freed slaves and some white missionaries, decided to parade around the racecourse, with little black schoolchildren carrying flowers and singing a Union marching song.
At the end of his speech, Kemter said, he received “countless compliments from attendees telling him it was “nice to hear the history.”
The clubhouse on the Charleston track where the Memorial Day events took place in 1865.
“It was well received,” Kemter said in the Akron Beacon Journal article, adding that many people told him they never knew about the slave origins of the holiday.
‘I find it interesting that’ [the American Legion] would take it upon themselves to censor my speech and deny me my right to speech under the First Amendment,” Kemter said. “This is not the same country I fought for.”
American Legion officials said they “asked him to adjust his speech, and he chose not to” before the Memorial Day ceremony.
Suchan, chairman of the Memorial Day parade committee and chairman of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, said the two minutes when Kemter’s microphone was off was part of what she asked him to rule out.
Kemter confirmed that he had received an email from an event organizer, which he did not name, requesting that part of his speech describing how black Americans helped establish Memorial Day, and asked the organizers to indicate which parts they wanted to omit.
The organizer emailed him back, he said, telling him that all parts marked should be removed, but said he hadn’t seen anything marked, and with less than 24 hours until the ceremony, “I didn’t have time to sit down.” and write another speech.’
The Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island was the Union attack on July 18, 1863, led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The infantry was one of the first major US military units composed of black soldiers
He said he showed the text to a Hudson government official, who told him to keep the speech intact.
On the day of the ceremony, Suchan said she had asked the sound engineer, AJ Stokes, to turn off Kemter’s microphone.
Stokes said he refused to do it himself, but pointed to the button that controls the microphone and said it was Jim Garrison, aide de camp for American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464, who turned the microphone off and on.
When asked about the allegations, Garrison declined to say whether he had turned off the microphone, saying he had “nothing to add” to the situation.
Stokes said Suchan and Garrison were both “very adamant” about turning off the microphone, but he was “very upset” about what happened and feared he would be blamed, although Suchan said Stokes was “completely flawless”.
Kemter, meanwhile, thought there was a problem with the audio equipment, he said, but Stokes told him the truth about the incident afterwards.
After the incident, Hudson’s Mayor Craig Shubert issued a joint press release with the Hudson City Council, writing that he and the city were “disheartened” when they learned of Kemter’s censorship by the American Legion.
“The decision was a disrespect to the Lieutenant Colonel who served our country bravely and was there to honor veterans in his speech, and it respected all Hudson and American veterans across the country who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms.” that we value as Americans,” read the release.
‘Hudson is a city that is proud of our history as the home of the abolitionist John Brown and a stop on the underground railroad. We are committed to diversity, equality and inclusion and to ensure that the constitutional rights of every person who lives, works and visits our great city are protected.”