Police Block Off QuikTrip, A Central Gathering Location In Ferguson Protests

FERGUSON, Mo. -- Police blocked off the central gathering place for protesters in this St. Louis suburb Monday in an attempt to prevent large crowds from forming there and getting out of control.

Protesters have convened at the QuikTrip, or QT, gas station and convenience store since the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer. The day after the shooting, on Sunday night, the store was looted and set on fire.

Since the building was destroyed, the QT's parking lot has been a popular spot where protesters have mingled at night. Nearly every surface has been covered in graffiti either remembering Brown or criticizing police actions. Late at night, the QT has turned into somewhat of a party zone, with people drinking and the smell of marijuana wafting through the air. On many nights, a parade of cars -- some with as many as 14 people piled on top -- have passed along the street in front of the lot, honking their horns and blasting music.

On Sunday night, a line of heavily armed police officers spraying tear gas progressed just past the QT and found a dumpster that had been set on fire. A handful of people showed up early Monday morning to clean up the debris from the previous night. CNN and MSNBC both had tents at the QT on Monday and were doing live interviews, and protesters occasionally stopped by to catch up on what happened the night before and to plan for the day ahead. The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke with people who had gathered there that day, as did St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been a constant presence at the protests.

But around 10 a.m., police officers began telling people they could no longer loiter at the QT. They were allowed to congregate, police said, as long as they continued to move around. One officer, who did not give his name, said it was on the orders of Gov. Jay Nixon (D). Nixon's office did not return a request for additional comment. Police also told three young kids who were biking around the lot of the QT that they would have to move along.

A couple hours later, the police further restricted access to the lot, kicking everyone, including the media, off the property. They said it would remain off-limits Monday night as well.

Police also were enforcing the no-standing rule elsewhere on West Florissant Avenue, where the bulk of the protesting has been.

Community members anticipated there could be a tense situation Monday night, after Nixon on Monday morning announced he was calling in the National Guard. There will be no curfew, unlike the previous two nights, when people could have been arrested for being out between midnight and 5 a.m.

"I think the presence of the National Guard has the potential to escalate the situation even more, and I hope that doesn't happen," French told The Huffington Post Monday morning at the QT, while it was still accessible.

At least seven were arrested and two wounded Sunday night and into Monday morning during the clashes between protesters and police. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, there had been molotov cocktails thrown at police long before the curfew, resulting in authorities tear-gassing the crowds and clearing West Florissant Avenue.

See updates on the situation in Ferguson below: