HUDSON, Ohio (WJW) – Officials with the Ohio American Legion say they are launching a full investigation of Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Hudson where the event’s keynote speaker’s microphone was turned down when he started speaking about freed Black slaves honoring soldiers that died during the Civil War.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, 77, told the FOX 8 I-TEAM that he was only trying to share some history about how Memorial Day started. He said he was completely “shocked and surprised” to learn his microphone was turned down.
“I first thought there was some technical issue and then I learned later it was purposely turned down,” Kemter said. “I am saddened and extremely disappointed that the American Legion would censor my speech.”
The event was organized by the American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464 in Hudson.
A.J. Stokes, the event’s audio engineer, told the I-TEAM he was asked by officials with Post 464 to turn off Kemter’s microphone during the speech. He said he refused and one of the organizer’s turned down the volume for about two minutes.
“I would never do that to anyone,” Stokes said. “I feel very badly this happened and honestly I am shocked that it happened.”
Officials with the American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464 said they were advised by state American Legion officials not to comment about the matter.
Ohio American Legion officials confirmed to the I-TEAM that they are “launching a full investigation.”
“This is so unfortunate and not what we stand for,” said Suzette Heller, an official with the state American Legion.
State Representative Casey Weinstein says he wants a full investigation and for the organizers of the event to be removed from their positions.
“This kind of racist censorship has no place in Hudson,” Weinstein said. “This is an embarrassment and I won’t stand for this in my town.”
The Mayor of Hudson and Hudson City Council members also released a statement saying they were “disheartened to learn that the American Legion turned the sound off for a portion of retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s speech.”
“The Legion explained that mentioning the role that people of color played in history of Memorial Day was “not relevant to our program for the day,” the release from Hubbard officials state. “We condemn the actions taken by the American Legion to censor the comments of Lt. Col. Kemter. The decision disrespected the Lt. Col. who has valiantly served our country and was there to honor veterans in his speech, and it disrespected all Hudson and American veterans nationwide who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we value as Americans.”
The I-TEAM has also learned that the American Legion of Ohio, Commander Roger Friend, has requested the resignation of two officers of Hudson American Legion Post 464. The full investigation and the charter of this post are pending with the Department Executive Board.