CNN offers a story today that is both chilling and inspiring, although it’s also almost a year old. When four Russian women traveling to the US for work suddenly saw their promised jobs in Washington vanish and were told to report to New York for jobs as “lounge hostesses,” a friend of theirs posted a note on a popular website to help protect them from exploitation. He set in motion a series of events as “netizens” (CNN’s word for them) eventually brought the plight of the women to blogger Katherine Hinds. Hinds rescued the women, putting her own life at risk, but in the end saving the women from a sex-trafficking ring that planned to enslave them — and she wasn’t the only one to help:
“I didn’t see the police; there was no cell-phone service in the basement. I had no idea what to do,” she recalled. “I was terrified.” The girls finally arrived, and the three women started on their way home. She quickly realized, however, that they were being followed. “I noticed that there were two men following us, which, as you can imagine, was pretty nerve-racking,” Hinds says. “I kept thinking, I hope they’re cops.”
Indeed, they were. When the women got to the street, the men identified themselves as plainclothes NYPD and spent the next two hours questioning them. When the interviews ended, they went home to the one-bedroom apartment Hinds shares with her husband. They offered their new guests the bedroom and slept in the living room, but not before Hinds notified Reetz that his friends were OK. Reetz, of course, notified the MetaFilter message board, and Hinds checked in later.
“The police kept asking me, ‘What’s the next step?'” recalls Hinds. “I said, ‘I have no idea how we’re going to feed them. I have no idea how any of this stuff is going to happen, but at least they’re OK.'”
Hinds is unemployed, and the apartment isn’t meant for four. In a upbeat MetaFilter post about their sightseeing plans, she made an offhand comment about feeding two extra people. The response was overwhelming.
“Someone asked for my PayPal so I gave it to them,” Hinds says, her voice breaking. “I’m going to cry about it—so people have been sending money. We’ve gotten $3,500 since last night. Multiple [posters] in New York who speak Russian have been coming to socialize and hang out with them.”
Glenn Reynolds wrote a book about the power of an Army of Davids, and while he cast the book mainly as a recognition of the power of grassroots against big government and big business, it can push back against organized crime as well. I’m not sure why CNN chose to revisit the story today, but I’m happy they did so, and it’s well worth highlighting.