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Activist making opinions, voice heard to right wrongs

Gina Greisen is one of those people. You know the type. All up in your business. Remaking the world in her own image. Annoying the bejesus out of folks. Like a gnat, buzzing. Buzz buzz buzz.

Here she is telling a story she thinks is heartwarming or something.

This is a few years ago. She’s at her house, hears a crashing sound out on East Tropicana Avenue. Rushes out there to get involved, because that’s what she does.

There’s a cop pulled onto the median. There’s a squished dog in the roadway. The evidence is clear: The cop squished the dog.

But he’s not doing anything about it except calling in a report on the radio. Meanwhile, cars are still running over the dog.

Greisen blocks the road and confronts the cop, who says he’s waiting on animal control, which only fuels Greisen’s anger more, which causes her to demand that he help remove the dog, rescue the dog, pay for the fixing of the dog. All of which he does.

She rushes the squished dog to the vet, where they won’t fix it without payment. Greisen gets the cop’s supervisor on the phone. Argues with him. She actually argues with the on-duty sergeant over the care of a squished dog.

She gets him to stand by the patrol cop’s promise to pay to fix the dog. The vet fixes the dog. It is eventually returned to its owner.

All is right in the world again because Gina Greisen got up off her butt and did something when no one else was.

OK. Maybe that is a little heart­warming. The poor doggie and all.

“I don’t care if people make fun of me,” Greisen says. “Call me names, whatever. I’m out here doing good.”

You see? Buzz buzz.

Greisen is 43 years old, has a 15-year-old daughter, is divorced and unemployed. She doesn’t have any money or power or influence, and yet she gets things done.

She says her mom was kind of like that, but in a less in-your-face way. If she saw someone who needed help, she’d help.

But Greisen took it a step further. No. She took it a mile further.

Remember, Greisen isn’t an expert. She’s not an elected official or a university professor or the chairman of the ACLU or anything. Just a mom.

And yet, she’s been quoted or mentioned in both newspapers dozens of times in the last few years on a whole lot of different subjects. She’s been all over the TV stations, too.

Here’s a partial list of what Greisen’s been given attention for:

■ As a failed candidate (twice) for the Clark County School Board.

■ In a story about lawsuits. Her parents were a party in one.

■ In a story about medical mal­practice where she refused to sign a waiver saying she wouldn’t sue.

■ In a column on the Candlelighters.

■ As party to a lawsuit wherein she alleged she’d been improperly fired (she later lost).

■ And, the holy grail for her, in dozens of stories about animal rights.

“I was always pained to the core when I saw people or animals suffering,” she says. “I felt like I needed to help. If not me, who?”

Greisen says she saw a guy at work being discriminated against. She spoke up. She got fired. She had to take anti­depressants and sleeping pills to get by. She sued. She lost.

She’s glad she did it anyway.

“I was the only person who stood up for him,” she says. “I fought, and it felt good.”

She determined right then that standing up for what she thought was right would be her thing. She’d already been involved in union organizing, so it wasn’t all that new to her.

“I was done being stepped on,” she says. “I’m done watching other people get stepped on.”

Her personality, always outspoken, became more aggressive. She went back to college and graduated.

Then 2005 came. Her daughter was a fifth-grader at Tomiyasu Elementary. Greisen got concerned that drivers were ignoring the school speed zones. A couple kids got hit by cars. Greisen staged a media event outside the school where violators were videotaped. She gave some of them fake traffic tickets.

She initiated a meeting of the cops, school district types, the media, parents and others at the school district’s offices to get something done about it.

She was now fully infected with the advocacy bug.

A few years ago, a friend of hers lost her dog. They went to the animal shelter to look for it, and they were horrified by the conditions, which were subsequently well documented in the media.

She took pictures. She went to city officials. We need to do something, she said.

She became involved with a group called Nevada Voters for Animals. She eventually took over as the director of that group.

The group worked with other groups and with elected officials to change state laws and municipal codes, and it worked.

Throughout Clark County, pet owners are required to spay or neuter their animals. Signs must be posted in parks and at vets’ offices saying so, too.

It is no longer OK to sell puppies at the swap meet in North Las Vegas when it’s over 85 degrees outside. The entire animal welfare code in Clark County was rewritten, and the same is being considered in Henderson.

She’s hoping to work with the Legislature next year on toughening some of the state’s animal cruelty laws, too.

While all that’s been going on, Greisen got herself involved in police shootings. Specifically, she got really angry about the Trevon Cole case.

That’s the case from June in which the police shot and killed an unarmed Cole while serving a search warrant. Stories conflicted. The police used incorrect information in getting the warrant in the first place.

All of this angered Greisen, as it did a lot of people. The difference being that Greisen formed a group.

She called it Justice for Trevon Cole. Its purpose was publicity, maybe to force a change in the way police shootings are investigated

She’d never met Cole. She’d never met anyone in his family. She was just mad at the cops.

That’s what she does. She wants to go to law school someday, make the whole activist thing official.

“I love it when people disrespect me,” she says, recalling how police and coroner’s officials looked at her like she was crazy during an inquest into the shooting, which eventually cleared the officer of wrongdoing. “When they look at you like you’re nuts, they think you don’t matter.”

But she does matter. She is sure of it. Which is maybe why she does all of this, so that she matters. So that some day, if she’s the one being squished by the cops or run over in a crosswalk, she won’t be ignored.

It’s hard to ignore the gnat buzzing in your ear.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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