Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s 11-minute speech was quieted in what he thought was a serious technical glitch.
An Ohio veteran mentioning the role freed Black people played in the founding of Memorial Day found his speech somewhat silenced during a holiday ceremony this week.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter‘s microphone was cut off while giving the keynote address Monday at Markillie Cemetery in Hudson, Ohio as he began to share a story about how former enslaved Black people were the first to honor deceased Union soldiers after the end of the Civil War, the origins of Memorial Day.
For two minutes, Kemter’s 11-minute speech was quieted in what he thought was a technical glitch.
However, Cindy Suchan, who was the chairperson of the Memorial Day event sponsored by the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, confirmed to The Akron Beacon Journal that it was either she or the adjutant of the American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464, Jim Garrison, who intentionally turned the microphone off at that point. According to the report, when pressed, Suchan would not confirm exactly who cut Kemter’s speech.
She told the news outlet Kemter was interrupted because that portion of his speech “was not relevant” to the program. She added that the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”
Suchan said the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary had previously reviewed Kemter’s speech and had asked him to edit it. She said his microphone was turned off during the parts that he was asked to remove.
Kemter, 77, who is white, said he received compliments on the historical detail in his speech. “It was well-received,” he said, noting that attendees told him they were unaware of the holiday’s origins.
“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,” Kemter said. “… This is not the same country I fought for.”
In a video of the speech posted to Vimeo, Kemter is seen tapping the microphone and asking for assistance. However, he continues his speech and after the historical portion, it comes back on and remains on.
According to a local report, the audio engineer at the ceremony refused to turn the mic off on Kemter, per Suchan’s request. A.J. Stokes said that instead, he pointed to the knob that controlled the volume. He told the Beacon Journal Garrison did the deed.
“That was very improper,” said Stokes. “I would’ve never done something like that.”
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