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Baltimore mom Toya Graham became an Internet sensation when video of her pulling her son from the riots in the Maryland city went viral. In the footage, shot by Baltimore ABC affiliate WMAR, Graham can be seen disciplining her son, yelling at and repeatedly slapping him, after she saw him across the street from police with a rock in his hand.
In an interview with the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley Tuesday night, Graham opened up about why she reacted that way and the role parents have in preventing violence like that seen in Baltimore earlier this week.
Graham explains how she “just lost it” when she saw that her son was in the group of rioters.
“I could see the objects being thrown at the police, and I was like in awe, like, ‘Oh my God, this is really happening right here with me.’ And lo and behold, I turn around and I look in this crowd, and my son is actually coming across the street with this hoodie on and a mask,” she told CBS. “At that point, I just lost it, and he gave me eye contact, and at that point — not even thinking about cameras or anything like that. That’s my only son, and at the end of the day, I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray. But to stand up there and vandalize police officers, that’s not justice. I’m a single mom, and I have six children, and I just choose not to live like that no more, and I don’t want that for him.”
Graham added that her son “knew he was in trouble” when he saw her.
“He said to me, ‘Ma, when I [saw] you, my instinct was to run.’ I’m a no [tolerance] mother. Everybody that knows me knows I don’t play that,” she said. “Is he the perfect boy? No he’s not! But he’s mine. I’m just grateful that I was able to get him home, and we actually [sat] back and watched the news and everything…By him seeing everything what’s going on, I just hope — I’m not sure — but I hope that he understands the seriousness of what was going on last night.”
Although she agrees that strong mothers can keep violent riots like the ones that occurred in Baltimore from happening, she acknowledges that there’s a limit to what they can do.
“I think it wouldn’t have been as worse as it was [if strong mothers had intervened],” Graham said. “But once again, we don’t know where those mothers [were] at. A lot of mothers have to provide for their children. You can make that phone call, ‘Get home, get home right now.’ At the end of the day, they’re going to make their own decision. As parents, we just have to follow through to make sure that’s where they’re supposed to be at.”
Graham also appeared in the studio on CBS This Morning on Wednesday, where she repeated much of what she told CBS Evening News. There, she added that she doesn’t feel like the “hero mom,” media outlets have called her.
“My intention was just to get my son and have him be safe,” she said.
Graham explained that she told her son not to go down to the protest, instructing him to go to school and not to meet up with rioters at a local mall.
The violent rioting follows the funeral for Freddie Gray, an African-American man who died while in police custody, and Graham said she would have allowed him to mourn Gray if that was how he chose to respond.
“I actually went to view Freddie Gray’s body. If he had wanted to do that, I would have allowed him to,” she said on CBS This Morning. “Even if he wanted to stay home from school to go to the funeral. I would have allowed him to do that. But for him to do what he was doing, it was just unacceptable.”
She also expressed the frustration that her community is having over not knowing what happened to Gray.
“We haven’t received any information on what happened to this young guy,” she said. “By looking at it from the news point of view, it seemed like he was harmed…As the people of Baltimore City, we feel we have the right to know what happened to him.”
Watch Graham’s full interview with the CBS Evening News and her Wednesday sit-down with CBS This Morning below.
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