CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — University of Illinois Police are investigating after nearly 300 students were involved in a gathering on campus during graduation weekend. The centerpiece of that gathering, they said, was a furniture bonfire.
The gathering happened just after midnight on Monday at the intersection of Oak and Chalmers Streets, a part of Campustown nicknamed “Seniorland” and home to dozens of student-rented houses and apartments. When UIPD officers were dispatched to check the area, they found the crowd gathered around the fire, which was in the middle of the intersection.
The fire was being fed by furniture and other miscellaneous items, said UIPD spokesperson Pat Wade. The Champaign Fire Department was eventually called to the scene and extinguished the fire; CFD spokesperson Randy Smith said only one engine company and one hose line was needed to put the fire out. The city’s Public Works Department then cleared the street of debris.
Wade said that a similar incident happened last year, but the crowd size was not as large as it was on Monday. He added that as of Monday afternoon, six students have been issued tickets for carrying open alcohol related to this year’s gathering.
But the illegal activity could go beyond just alcohol violations.
“The potential legal consequences could be quite serious. There are several criminal charges that could apply depending on the circumstances,” Wade said. “And worse, there is the potential for serious injury. We are lucky to say that no injuries were reported last night.”
Wade could not comment any further due to the investigation’s ongoing nature.
Editor’s note: The video of the gathering and bonfire shown above was provided to WCIA by a witness. They did not want to be identified.