A group of cancer-stricken children and their families were ejected from a park near the White House on Saturday night, reports the Washington Post.
The group were staging a two-day event called CureFest for Childhood Cancer and were planning to hold “A Night of Golden Lights” vigil illuminated by electric candles.
The organizers of the Lafayette Square vigil, associated with child-cancer advocacy program Truth 365, were raising money for research funding and awareness for child cancer treatments.
Even though the CureFest group had received a permit granting permission to stage the vigil, Secret Service and Park Police shut it down and removed the group from Lafayette Square.
Security agents then barricaded the area, leaving at least 700 sick children, families, and supporters waiting for at least two hours.
The CureFest group were not allowed access to personal items that had been left behind, such as chairs and blankets, and sick children with cancer had to return to their hotel, fatigued and needing medication.
In a statement released Sunday night, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary explained the removal of the child cancer vigil on Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park was “based on standard [Secret Service] protocols prior to protected movements in the vicinity of the White House Complex.”
President Obama was scheduled to travel to a speaking engagement at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner, and security closure for presidential movement was enacted at 7:15 p.m.
Natasha Gould, an 11-year-old blogger from Canada who begun documenting and sharing her experiences after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer this year described her dismay and upset.
“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.We ended up waiting at the gates for two hours, and they never let us in,” Natasha Gould, an 11-year-old blogger.
Anthony Stoddard of New Hampshire, who began an initiative to light up public buildings in gold as a show of support for children with cancer after losing his 5-year-old son, told the Washington Post, “Police were telling a lot of people in our group to leave because it was so close to the road there was a traffic issue. It got really frustrating. No one was giving us answers about when we would get in. So finally, about 10:30, we gave up. It was heartbreaking.”
Brian Leary apologized for disrupting the vigil affirming.
“The Secret Service would like to express its regret for not communicating more effectively with this group concerning the timeline for protected movements in the vicinity of Lafayette Park,” he explained, reports ABC.
[Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images]