Toya Graham is a single mother raising six children, including a 16-year-old son, Michael, in Baltimore. She wasn’t looking to go viral when she walked outside and pulled her son out of protests Monday; she was looking to save his life.
“He gave me eye contact. And at that point, you know, 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,” Graham told CBS News. Freddie Gray is the 25-year-old man who was arrested for still-unknown reasons and died while in police custody. His death sparked violent protests Monday that led to injuries among 20 police officers and the arrests of some 235 people, including 34 juveniles.
Graham told CBS News that she saw her son on the news dressed in black wearing a hood and mask along with other protesters. “At that point, I just lost it,” Graham told the news station. “I was shocked, I was angry, because you never want to see your child out there doing that.”
Graham doesn’t condone the violence over Gray’s death, and she wasn’t going to let her only son participate in reckless looting. When Michael saw his mother among the protesters, his first instinct was to run.
“I’m a no-tolerant mother. Everybody that knows me know I don’t play that,” she told CBS News.
He took his beating (which has gone viral), and the two walked home together and watched the protest on the news.
“And 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,” Graham said.
Shortly after, Michael’s Facebook page started blowing up, with people telling the teen not to be mad at his mother, according to CBS News.
Police Commissioner Andy Batts even praised the mom’s efforts to bring her son home to safety. “I wish I had more parents who took charge of their kids tonight,” he said, according to CBS Baltimore.
Graham knows that she can’t be there to pull her son out of every situation, but that doesn’t mean she won’t try.