Freddie Gray mother
A Baltimore mother says she "lost it" when she saw her masked, 16-year-old son pick up a rock to throw at police in violent protests over the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore this week. Reuters/Adrees Latif

After a video went viral showing a Baltimore mother berating and smacking her 16-year-old son for taking part in violent protests sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, the two spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about what led to the confrontation. The mother, Toya Graham, admitted she “lost it” after seeing her son Michael Singleton pick up a rock at a frenzied scene near the Mondawmin Mall.

The video earned her the title “Mother of the Year” from many Internet admirers, who praised her for holding her son accountable for his actions. The self-described “no-tolerant mother” said she had no qualms about reprimanding her son in front of a crowd and the news cameras covering the protests. Graham told CNN her son was “embarrassing himself by wearing that mask and that hoodie and doing what he was doing.”

The original viral video:

“She didn’t want me to get in trouble with the law,” said Singleton, who appeared repentant and understanding. “She didn’t want me to become another Freddie Gray.”

Graham also criticized other protesters, saying the events she saw unfolding on Monday were not an appropriate way of getting justice for 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died a week after suffering spine injuries while in police custody on April 12. What started as a peaceful protest movement following Gray’s April 27 funeral devolved into a violent amalgam of looting, violence and property destruction late Monday night. Community leaders and Gray’s family were quick to condemn the violence, but alleged agreements by gangs in Baltimore to team up and go after police had many concerned the protests would spiral out of control.

Police limited their engagement with violent protesters at Monday’s protests, but the city enacted a 10 p.m. curfew for the rest of the week. Though protesters largely refused to leave the streets on Tuesday, the demonstrations remained relatively peaceful and dispersed without significant incidents.

The video has become a focal point in this week’s violence in Baltimore, and Graham’s Tuesday interview with CBS spoke volumes about life in Baltimore's troubled neighborhoods.

“There are some days I’ll shield him in the house just so he won’t go outside,” she said. “And I know I can’t do that for the rest of my life. He’s 16 years old, you know.”