The U.S. Secret Service ordered hundreds of parents and their cancer-stricken children out of Lafayette Square on Saturday night, barricading the park for at least two hours and disrupting the group’s plans for a candlelight vigil to raise awareness of and research funding for childhood cancer, participants said.
Some of the parents and children expressed hurt and disappointment that the Secret Service and Park Police, citing security precautions, virtually shut down part of a two-day event called CureFest for Childhood Cancer.
“We ended up waiting at the gates for two hours, and they never let us in,” said Natasha Gould, an 11-year-old from Canada who started a blog after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor this year. “And to be clear, the entire crowd was half kids. I cried last night in my hotel room because it was my first CureFest, and I couldn’t believe people were acting like they don’t care about children.”
In a statement e-mailed late Sunday, Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said the closures on Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park were “put into place based on standard [Secret Service] protocols prior to protectee movements in the vicinity of the White House Complex.”
He added, “The Secret Service would like to express its regret for not communicating more effectively with this group concerning the timeline for protectee movements in the vicinity of Lafayette Park.”
Organizers, aligned with the Truth 365 grass-roots child-cancer advocacy program, had obtained a permit to hold “A Night of Golden Lights,” in which participants would light electric candles.
But as the closure continued on, some of the sick children, fatigued by the wait or the need to receive medication, had to return to their hotel rooms, organizers said. Others began crying, and some parents became enraged. Attendees said the group of at least 700 people was not allowed access to personal items they left behind, such as chairs and blankets.
Read more: The Washington Post