Story at a glance

  • During his speech, Kemter noted that the discovery of newspaper clippings and handwritten notes showed an organized group of freed slaves in Charleston, S.C., were among the first to commemorate the holiday.
  • Moments later, Kemter’s mic was cut off.
  • While it was assumed to be a technical glitch at the time, The Akron Beacon Journal reports one of the event’s organizers admitted the audio had been deliberately turned down as Kemter’s discussion “was not relevant to our program for the day.”

During an event in Hudson, Ohio, a veteran who spoke on the role freed Black slaves played in the founding of Memorial Day had his microphone turned off, and it was no accident. 

Video from the event marking the holiday Monday at Markillie Cemetery shows retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, 77, giving a speech on the history of Memorial Day to hundreds of people. 


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During his speech, Kemter noted that the discovery of newspaper clippings and handwritten notes showed an organized group of freed slaves in Charleston, S.C., were among the first to commemorate the holiday less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. The ceremony took place at the site of a Confederate prisoner of war camp. 

“The ceremony is believed to have included a parade of as many as 10,000 people, including 3,000 African American schoolchildren singing the Union marching song, ‘John Brown’s Body,” Kemter said. “They were carrying armfuls of flowers and went to decorate at the graves.” 

Moments later, Kemter’s mic was cut off and the veteran tapped it a few times before asking for assistance. Kemter carried on with his speech until the audio returned minutes later. 

While it was assumed to be a technical glitch at the time, The Akron Beacon Journal reports one of the event’s organizers admitted the audio had been deliberately turned down as Kemter’s discussion “was not relevant to our program for the day.” 

“We asked him to modify his speech, and he chose not to do that,” Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, told the newspaper. Suchan said the theme of the event was about honoring Hudson veterans. She told the outlet Kemter’s speech was reviewed by organizers days before the event, and he was asked to remove some portions. 

Suchan told the news outlet that either she or another organizer cut Kemter’s mic, but she wouldn’t confirm who.

Kemter was later told by the audio engineer for the event that there was no technological glitch and one of the organizers turned the audio down. 

“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 told the newspaper. “This is not the same country I fought for.” 

The Ohio American Legion is investigating the incident. 

“We take this matter and its allegations seriously. We will investigate and take disciplinary action if necessary,” the Ohio American Legion tweeted Wednesday


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Published on Jun 03, 2021