An army veteran who was invited to speak at a ceremony to commemorate Memorial Day in Ohio had his microphone cut by the event organizers while he was speaking about how formerly enslaved Black people had paid tribute to slain soldiers following the Civil War.
According to Akron Beacon Journal, the ceremony was organized by the Hudson American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464 and it was held at the Markillie Cemetery on Monday. And while retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was delivering the keynote speech for the ceremony, his microphone was cut off for around two minutes when he started speaking about the topic in question.
In the aftermath of the controversial incident, the president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, Cindy Suchan, admitted Kemter’s microphone was cut but did not reveal who was behind that action. She, however, told the news outlet that action was taken by either her or another member of the group.
Suchan added that she and her team had informed Kemter to omit that portion of the speech because they determined it “was not relevant to our program for the day” as the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”
But Kemter said the motive behind his speech was to provide some insight on the origins of Memorial Day. Following the incident, the veteran said his speech received a positive response from several people who attended the event and they even told him “it was nice to hear the history” for the first time.
On the cutting of his microphone by the event organizers when he began speaking about how formerly enslaved Black people contributed to the creation of Memorial Day, Kemter told Akron Beacon Journal he was disappointed at what they did.
“I find it interesting that [the American Legion] … would take it upon themselves to censor my speech and deny me my First Amendment right to [freedom of] speech,” he said. ““… This is not the same country I fought for.”
Prior to the ceremony, Suchan said she had taken a look at Kemter’s speech and told him to remove and modify some portions but he did not. Kemter, however, said he did not see the parts he was told to remove in the email message that was sent to him and he did not reply as the message came less than a day to the event.
And though Suchan did not disclose the portions in question, she admitted the period Kemter’s mic was cut was one of the parts she informed him to omit in his speech. Kemter was talking about how freed Black men exhumed the bodies of over 200 soldiers to give them “a proper burial” after the warfare in Charleston.
Meanwhile, the audio engineer for the event, A.J. Stokes, registered his displeasure over the organizers’ decision to turn off Kemter’s mic. Though Stokes revealed he was instructed to turn down the audio, he said he refused but showed the organizers the button for that. Stokes also told Akron Beacon Journal that Kemter’s mic was cut by Jim Garrison, a member of the Hudson American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464.
“That was very improper. I would’ve never done something like that,” Stokes said, adding that he apologized to Kemter in the aftermath of the incident and told him he wasn’t the one behind it.