by Brittany Raymer
Former Digital Writer & Editor
The fiancé of a victim of a recent mass shooting claims Gov. Roy Cooper and the NAACP made the city-sponsored memorial event needlessly political. In a WRAL report, Rob Steele shared that he felt used for political purposes at the Raleigh Healing Together, which was advertised as a memorial remember the victims.
Rob Stelle and Mary Marshall were going to tie the knot later this month before she tragically lost her life in a mass shooting. To commemorate her life and four others, Stelle agreed to participate in a memorial event thrown by the city. Unfortunately, the event took a frustratingly political bent.
“I am not naïve,” Steele said. “I knew there would be some political conversation, but the event was supposed to be about the victims, about healing.
“It wasn’t supposed to be majority gun control and gun violence.”
Yet that is what Steele experienced at the event, which was held on Sunday, October 24. It was not a memorial to the victims and their families, as Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin promised Steele it was, but instead a campaign and political platform for local politicians and the NAACP.
“I thought (Mayor Baldwin’s) speech was good, to be honest, and appropriate for the event,” Steele said.
But the rest, not so much.
The first to give remarks was Mayor Baldwin, who said in part, “Our hearts are with the victims and their families, as we all grieve and try to process this senseless tragedy.
“Last Thursday, in the early evening as the news began to spread, I’m sure many of us had the same thought. Not here. Not us. Not in Raleigh. We all hoped that something like this would never happen in our community, it was my prayer every night before I went to sleep, and yet here we all are.”
The event took a turn when Gov. Cooper got up to speak.
“And I’ve prayed for the policy makers, a lot of them here today, for those who have been trying to help prevent these tragedies as well as for those who refuse to acknowledge the real problems,” he said. “We must do more to stop gun violence.”
Gov. Cooper then went on to talk about gun violence related to accidents, suicide and murder, and precedes to talk about his legislative record and his liberal veto use. His recognition of the victims went by the wayside in order to push his political agenda.
Steele then had an opportunity to share about his lost love and grief.
“I know I have dark days coming, it’s inevitable,” he said. “But I also know I’ll get through them because my community, my friends and my family will be there for me. This is how we heal. Be someone’s favorite place.”
The event was closed by the president of the NAACP Raleigh-Apex chapter, Gerald D. Givens, who gave a lengthy speech about gun control and gun violence, hardly mentioning the victims. Perhaps the most egregious moment is when he told the audience that he just needed 100 people to sign up in order to make his branch the biggest in the state.
Steele ended up leaving in the middle of Given’s speech, before hearing his pitch for new members.
“Either the mayor did not know what the people she partnered with were planning or she misled me,” Steel said. “If she knew she lied to me, if she didn’t’ know, then why?”
He claims that his fiancé Mary would not have advocated for gun control and would have advocated for mental health reforms.
“I don’t want to be a pawn,” he said. “I don’t want Mary’s memory to be a pawn.”
John Locke Foundation has provided some policy solutions regarding certain gun control issues, you can find more about it here.