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HUDSON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — The state's American Legion organization is investigating why a veteran's microphone was cut during a Hudson Memorial Day ceremony when he discussed the role Black Americans played in establishing the holiday.

The incident has prompted national outcry since the Akron Beacon Journal first reported the story Wednesday.

A ceremony organizer turned off the mic Monday when the event's keynote speaker, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, began sharing a story about freed Black slaves honoring deceased soldiers shortly after the end of the Civil War.

Hudson American Legion Auxiliary President Cindy Suchan, who chairs the Memorial Day parade committee, told the Beacon Journal said Kemter's mic was turned down because it “was not relevant to our program for the day," and added the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”

The American Legion Department of Ohio said in a tweet directed to a Beacon Journal reporter that it is investigating the incident: "We are aware of the incident written by you and published in the Akron Beacon Journal. This matter and the facts are under full investigation by our organization. Thank you for bringing this to our attention."

A separate tweet from the American Legion Department of Ohio stated, "We will investigate and take disciplinary action if necessary."

Suzette Heller, department adjutant for the American Legion Department of Ohio, told the Beacon Journal an investigation is "happening right now," and added her office also is in communication with the national American Legion office.

"We are shocked about this," Heller told the Beacon Journal on Thursday.

American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford issued this statement regarding the incident in Hudson: “The Ohio American Legion assures us that they are fully investigating this incident. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the national headquarters is very clear that The American Legion deplores racism and reveres the Constitution. We salute LTC Kemter’s service and his moving remarks about the history of Memorial Day and the important role played by Black Americans in honoring our fallen heroes. We regret any actions taken that detracts from this important message.”

A Beacon Journal story about the speech had more than 300,000 page views nationwide by late Thursday morning, making it the most widely read story across the USA Today Network in the past 24 hours.

The story was shared via Twitter by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine reporter who created the magazine's 1619 Project and was also picked up by the Washington Post and other media.

On Twitter, State Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-37th District), also a Hudson resident, called the incident "an EMBARRASSMENT."

"I want to know why the organizers felt they had to censor this veteran at our Hudson Memorial Day event!" he shared in a tweet.

Weinstein also tweeted that Suchan "should be removed from her position. It’s time to send a message. This kind of racist censorship has NO place in Hudson!"

By late Thursday morning, several hundred comments were posted on Suchan's personal Facebook page criticizing her actions and urging her to resign from her position as leader of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary. Many comments have been heated, with some using profane language.

(c)2021 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In this image captured from Hudson public access television, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter checks to see if the microphone is functioning after organizers turned off audio during a portion of his Memorial Day speech Monday, May 31, in Hudson, Ohio.
In this image captured from Hudson public access television, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter checks to see if the microphone is functioning after organizers turned off audio during a portion of his Memorial Day speech Monday, May 31, in Hudson, Ohio. (HCTV )

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