American Legion official resigns after censoring speech acknowledging Black history of Memorial Day

·2 min read

The top official at an American Legion post in Ohio has stepped down after reportedly censoring a Memorial Day speech that recognised the history of Black people organising to commemorate the holiday.

The American Legion Department of Ohio has also suspended the chapter’s charter “pending permanent closure.”

Jim Garrison resigned from his position as Post Officer and officials have demanded that he resign his membership altogether, according to a statement from the organisation.

“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 statement said.

The moves follow widely shared Memorial Day remarks from retired Army Lt Col Barnard Kemter to an audience of roughly 300 people at the Markillie Cemetery in Hudson, Ohio to commemorate the holiday and reflect on its history.

Mr Kemter’s microphone was abruptly cut off at one point as he discussed how Black Americans honoured Union soldiers who died as prisoners of war during the US Civil War with a proper burial, decorated their graves and held a parade with thousands of participants.

Mr Garrison and Cindy Suchan “knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up,” according to the American Legion.

Before the event, Ms Suchan reportedly told Mr Kenter to remove parts of the speech that discussed how formerly enslaved people “were among the first to commemorate Memorial Day after the Civil War ended by giving deceased Union soldiers at a Confederate prisoner of war camp an honorable burial and by decorating their graves with flowers and organizing a parade to honor them,” according to the organisation.

The move to censor Mr Kemter’s remarks “constitutes a violation of the ideals and purposes of the American Legion,” according to the statement.

The organisation added: “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.”

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