Talk of Occupy Pets and Politics Outside Zuccotti Park

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Occupy Wall Street rang in 2012 with a hard bang, and the movement was still feeling the hangover two days later.

Zuccotti Park remained closed Jan. 2, after nearly 70 protesters were arrested New Year's Eve. Less than a half-dozen people were standing outside the barricades, collecting donations and conversing with well-wishers on Monday afternoon, the official holiday. Shane, a 38-year-old who came up from Florida when the protest began in September, said the take that day was low.

"People feel more sympathetic to us when we're standing on the other side of the fence," said Shane, who declined to give his last name to protect his job opportunities.

Nestled in his chest was another Occupy veteran who did not disclose his last name, Mugan, a 6-month-old cat. Shane said Mugan sleeps at a friend's house. Since tents and sleeping bags were banned from the park two months ago, both spend about six hours a day at Zuccotti.

"He's an attention slut," he said of Mugan. He added that other protestors were keeping warm at a nearby building.

Ned Merrill, 50, said they just wanted to maintain a "symbolic presence" at Zuccotti Park.

The Zuccotti protestors said they hoped 2012 would bring changes to the system and more jobs. They also had politics on their minds the day before the Iowa caucuses.

Merrill liked Republican Ron Paul's stance on constitutional issues and opposition to the Patriot Act, but couldn't square them with the candidate's libertarian views, which would leave the wealthy alone.

"We can't support Ron Paul for his positions on economic justice and we can't support Obama because of the military detention bill," said Merrill, who opposes the new law allowing the military to imprison citizens without charges being filed. "Before the military detention bill, our one gripe [with Obama] was that he buckled on the bank bailout."

Merrill said the president should have forced the banks to make real reform in exchange for the federal bailout.

He and Shane both said they planned to get involved with this year's congressional elections, but were uncertain about precisely how. Merrill said he wanted representatives to disclose much more detailed financial information than they are currently required to do.

Shane said he'll probably end up voting for Obama, reluctantly. "He's the lesser of two evils, but it still sucks," he said.

As for the park, Occupiers were hopeful on Monday that it would reopen soon. That Saturday night, hundreds had returned to Zuccotti and tensions escalated after police said one protestor stabbed an officer with scissors. Merrill said everyone else remained nonviolent and the incident could have occurred just as easily in Times Square or near any New Year's revelry. Sixty-eight people were arrested.

A police officer outside Zuccotti said the park might reopen Tuesday, and it did. One nearby resident said only a few people showed up in the cold.

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