Yesterday, I wondered on Twitter whether the assumption made by the media and everyone else was correct, and that this viral video really showed a mother taking a son to task for attempting to join the Baltimore riots. CBS News finally identified both the woman and the teen, who were indeed mother and son, and gave her an opportunity to tell the story. Toya Graham explained that her son Michael tried hiding under the ski mask, but that didn’t fool Mom:
“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,” Toya Graham said, referencing the 25-year-old man who died after mysteriously sustaining severe spinal injuries in police custody earlier in the month. His death has sparked protests throughout the city, with tensions boiling over Monday.
Graham told CBS News she launched into action after spotting her 16-year-old son Michael wearing a hoodie and mask amid the protesters.
“At that point, I just lost it,” said Graham. “I was shocked, I was angry, because you never want to see your child out there doing that.”
Graham, a single mom with six children, denounced the vandalism and violence against police officers. She said rioting in Baltimore is no way to go about getting justice for Freddie Gray and that she doesn’t want that life for her son.
Even before her identification, Graham got hailed by local authorities for her intervention. The bulk of Baltimore’s rioters on Monday came “right out of the local high schools,” according to police commissioner Anthony Batts:
City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters late Monday night that a bulk of the rioters who pelted officers with rocks and bricks, inciting a massive display of looting and vandalism across parts of West Baltimore were area high schoolers.
“These are Baltimore youthful residents, a number of them came right out of the local high schools there on the other side of Mondawmin and started engaging in this,” said Batts. “I think these were youth coming out of the high school and they thought it was cute to throw cinder blocks at the police department and address it that way.” …
More than 500 police officers were eventually brought in to help push the rioters out of the area.
Batts applauded one mother who was seen smacking her son after seeing him take part in the violence and chided parents whose children were involved. “I wish I had more parents who took charge of their kids tonight,” he said.
Indeed. But as Graham herself says, lots of single parents don’t have that luxury, either. It’s a reminder that we need to work harder to strengthen the family structure as the basic building block of society.