Children of Injustice
Children of Injustice
By: Eric “Supreme” Rivera
Everyone that meets me or knows me, always asks me the following: “Why did I decide to help out Pedro Hernandez? My short response is that someone has to step up and help when injustice is being served. However, it goes deeper, and I decided to write about why I am so motivated to help those like Pedro. I hope by sharing the things I experienced as a child, will help people understand why I am so passionate about Pedro and all children who have suffered and are suffering from injustice.
I grew up on the west side of the Bronx, on 181st Street and Creston Avenue. My mother gave birth to me when she was 21 years old. I did not meet my father until I was 15 years old. My mother moved on with her life and had two other children with her boyfriend. When I turned 5 years old my mother’s boyfriend became extremely physically abusive to my mother and me. I remember clearly all the physical abuse I went through. It was like a replaying nightmare that never ended. He would wake me out my sleep in the middle of the night, and beat me. I could be sleeping and out of nowhere he would kick me in my face. Once he kicked me so hard that he put a 3-inch gash on my forehead. My mother was not allowed to rush me to the emergency room. She patched me up with a white washcloth and some scotch tape. In another incident, he stored me away in a closet for the entire summer and only once, daily, allowed me out to use the bathroom and/or eat food. From 7 to 12 years old, I never received a Christmas gift from Santa. I remember waking up on Christmas mornings and seeing dozens of toys for my two siblings and not one toy for me. My breaking point was he once made my mother strip me naked and tie me to her bed face down. He then handed my mother an extension cord and ordered her to beat me with it. I counted 16 lashes on my back before I lost consciousness. I had high fevers for 3 days and it took me two weeks to recover. From that point on I began plotting my escape because I was convinced that I would die if I stayed around that man any longer. I was always an honor student, a great chess player and made the principal’s honor roll list every year, so I was confident that I could out think my mother’s boyfriend. A week after I graduated from the 6th grade, I finally ran away from home.
I didn’t run away far because I really did not know where to go. I slept on trains, rooftops, hallways, and anywhere else that I could find that was warm and safe. My only resource for food was a good friend, named Liedza Rivera. She would sneak me sandwiches and left over dinner every day. I had known Liedza since daycare. Liedza lost her life at the age of 14 after being caught in the middle of a drive by shooting, as she was walking out of a fried chicken establishment. Liedza was one of my most devastating losses I have experienced…
The precinct that patrolled my neighborhood was the 46th. The 46th precinct is infamously known for their attempted assassination of Larry Davis. The corruption that was exposed in the Larry Davis’ case was almost as bad as all the corruption we have all been hearing about in the Pedro Hernandez case. The detectives of the 46th precinct would prey on young children and terrify them into giving them information on local drug dealers. At times they would use children to make false statements against local drug dealers in order to lock them up. Once, while being homeless on the streets of that neighborhood, myself and another homeless boy was picked up by three detectives from the 46th precinct. They took us to a dark isolated street off the Major Deegan Thruway. The detectives explained to us that they had observed on several occasions’ individuals they were investigating giving us money. I explained that we were given a minimum of $5 a piece so that we could get something to eat. The detectives, somehow, were convinced we were lying and began to slap us both across the face. They used water boarding techniques with towels on our faces, which made me feel like I was drowning. After about 10 minutes of the abuse and the detectives not getting out of us what they wanted, they jumped in their cars and left us. A week later these same detectives picked me up a drug sale that I knew nothing about!
I was taken to Spofford Juvenile Detention Center. The conditions were horrible there. Children had to use underwear that belonged to other children. There were assaults on children from staff all over the building, and on a continuous basis. The place reminded me of the movie “Bad Boys” that starred Sean Penn and Esai Morales. I eventually allowed my public defender lawyer to convince them to allow me to take 12 months in a Division for Youth facility, just so I could get out of Spofford. My lawyer claimed that the Division for Youth facilities was like a college campus and that they would help me foster care placement so that I wouldn’t be homeless anymore. It took the 12 months, and was sent to a place called Masten Park in Buffalo, New York.
Masten Park was not like a college campus. It was a surrounded by a big wall and barbed wire. Masten Park used to be a monastery for nuns in the 1800 and early 1900’s. At some point the state of New York bought it and turned it into a juvenile facility. My orientation to Masten Park happened on the first night; where a staff member led me to shower room in the basement and I witnessed two other staff members sexually abuse a 13-year-old boy. When they were done with the boy they turned to me and said, “You are 400 miles from New York City, nobody will come visit you, nobody will care about you, and all you have is us. You behave here or shit like what just happened to him will happen to you”. Every day I saw the most sadistic stuff happen to boys around me; from beatings, to chokings, to sexual abuse, to even being placed in isolation. I was placed in isolation several times and once it lasted three weeks. Wow,I was taking 12 months for a crime I didn’t commit because I thought I was going to a place where people cared about the wellbeing of children and their future. I thought I was going to a place that took in broken children and built them back up and healed them from the pains they were suffering. That was the furthest thing from the truth! I believe I had already been suffering from Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) along with other mental health issues that I never received treatment for. I wanted to die in there and had no hope for living at all. Eventually my mother found me and came to visit me at Masten Park. On that visit she informed me that she ran away with my siblings and got away from her boyfriend and she wanted me to come home to her. I missed my mother and decided I would go back home when I was done with the sentence. I was eventually transferred from Masten Park after I was damn near choked to death by a staff member named “Jimmy King”. His co-worker who was a new staff member was appalled by his actions and behaviors and how he almost killed me. She complained to all the supervisors and directors and advocated that disciplinary measures be taken against Jimmy King. She reported the incident to Children Protective Services. Children Protective Services came to interview me and saw all the bruising that I still had on my neck. They immediately had me removed from the facility and placed in a group home in Poughkeepsie, New York. A couple of years later Masten Park was shut down due to all the abuse against children that took place in there. I completed my 12-month sentence and was sent to live with my mother.
Fast-forward to June of 2017 and how I heard about Pedro Hernandez. I was on the phone with a friend who was hospitalized in Las Vegas. My friend asked me if I had been on Facebook and seen the story about a young child who was on Riker’s Island for a crime he didn’t commit, and needed to get out because he was in danger of losing his scholarship for college. I told my friend that I had not been on Facebook in a couple of days but that I would look up the story. Right after the phone conversation ended I went to look up the story. After reading the story and seeing the Sarah Wallace news report on Pedro, I texted my friend in Las Vegas and told him that when he got back to New York City we should find Pedro’s mother and see how we could help her. My friend never made it to New York City because he passed away at the hospital in Las Vegas. A couple of weeks later, I saw the Pedro Hernandez story on my timeline, again. I immediately began to make calls to find Pedro’s mother. I spoke with her Private Investigator and he got Pedro’s mother (Jessica Perez) in touch with me. Jessica and I spoke for about two hours on the phone. She had me tears after two hours of her telling me about the seven false arrests on Pedro, the corrupt criminal behaviors of NYPD officers, David Terrell, Daniel Brady and Assistant District Attorney David Slott. Also, how Pedro was physically abused at a juvenile detention center by a staff member, and how Pedro even lost 40% of his vision in his left eye due to being maced by Riker’s Island correctional officers. He was left handcuffed for 7 hours without having the opportunity to wash off the mace from his eyes. What really broke me up emotionally was when she told me how there might be another 50–200 children who are incarcerated behind the same individuals who went after Pedro. Jessica explained to me how intelligent Pedro was, and how he received a scholarship from the POSSE Foundation to attend any four-year university he wanted to attend. Pedro’s story was so reminiscent to my own story, except in Pedro’s story there was a small chance of opportunity to save him before any more damage could occur. Right before Jessica and I ended our conversation I told her that I would do everything in my power to help get her son home in seven days.
The first call I made to was to my good friend Tory Russell who is a community activist from Ferguson, Missouri and played an intricate role with the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Movement for Mike Brown. After Tory and I spoke for an hour we came up with a game plan that if executed correctly we could help Pedro get released on bail. Tory decided that the first person to contact to help us out was Shaun King from the Daily News. Shaun King, in my opinion, is the most important civil rights reporter and activist I have ever seen in my lifetime. My second phone call was to my cousin Camilo Matos who helped organize with the release of political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera. I asked Camilo to get me a location where we could hold a community meeting and get local community organizations there to see if they could help Pedro out. Camilo reached back out and said he had a location secured. My third call was to Jessica to inform her of the community meeting and the location and time of it. I was able to speak to Shaun King over the phone and gave him every single detail and fact I knew about the case surrounding Pedro.
At the first community meeting we had some other community activists like Leyla Martinez who gave valuable insights and began to help mobilize the community for a rally we planned on doing in front of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in the Bronx on August 11th, 2017. Shaun King then connected me and Carmen Perez from the Justice League NYC. Carmen offered all her support and resources to Jessica and me and even put together a meeting where she invited every resource she had, including Councilman Michael Blake and Senator Gustavo Rivera. They both were present at the meeting and were extremely helpful to Carmen and I. In the background, Shaun King had put together a super team of people like powerful human rights attorney Lee Merritt, The Robert F. Kennedy Law Firm, attorneys Wade McMullen and Alec Karatatsanis. After working 16 hours a day for Seven Days, calls and meetings , Tory Russell’s guidance, Carmen Perez’s support, Shaun King’s pivotal press release articles on Pedro and undying support and mentorship, and the help of the Robert F. Kennedy law Firm; Pedro Hernandez was finally released on bail!
I think you see now why I can never answer that question; “Why did I decide to help out Pedro Hernandez?”- In one sentence. I never understood why I had to suffer so much in life. The only answer I can come up with is that maybe God knew he was going to call upon me one day to help fight wickedness against his angels. God’s true angels are the children like Pedro Hernandez, Kalief Browder and those other children that we now have to save from the injustices of the 42nd precinct. In order to know how to fight wickedness successfully you must first have experienced it yourself. Jessica Perez, Tory Russell and I, are on the verge of developing a program called “Children of Injustice”, where we vow to attempt to bail out every child that was wrongfully imprisoned by the 42nd precinct, and provide their families with the valuable resources they deserve. Shaun King has written, I hope, an award winning five-piece story on the corruption of the 42nd precinct and the Bronx District Attorney’s office and their conspiracy to destroy Pedro Hernandez. Shaun King calls that five-piece story “Soul Snatchers”. Today Pedro Hernandez begins trial and I truly can’t see how the District Attorney’s office is willing to move forward with this trial. If by some other corrupt way the state is able to find Pedro guilty on these made up charges then Shaun King was right when he says “They are snatching the soul out of these children man!!!”