Children and their parents attending a CureFest for Childhood Cancer event Sept. 19 were forced out of Lafayette Square in front of the White House by the Secret Service.
“We ended up waiting at the gates for two hours, and they never let us in,” said Natasha Gould, an 11-year-old girl, the Washington Post reported. “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.”
After being diagnosed this year with an inoperable brain tumor, Gould set up a blog to tell her story.
“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,” added Anthony Stoddard. “It was heartbreaking.”
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The event was to have consisted of the children and their parents lighting golden candles to draw attention to their cause. Stoddard initiated the idea of lighting up public buildings in gold to raise awareness about childhood cancer.
But the White House refused to participate, prompting organizers to arrange the vigil in Lafayette Square.
Event organizer Michael Gillette said that although the group knew they could possibly be removed from the park, they anticipated this would only be if an unexpected incident occurred.
The Secret Service took the decision to shut the event down due to President Obama leaving to address the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
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“We didn’t expect the president’s travel across town would cause our event to be basically canceled,” Gillette added, according to the Guardian.
“The Secret Service would like to express its regret for not communicating more effectively with this group concerning the timeline,” spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement.
Despite director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy calling Gillette to say sorry Sept. 21, the organizer stressed he could not accept the apology for the children.
“There are children who were in the audience who will not be there next year at this time, and there’s nothing to do or say to make this up to them,” Gillette said, according to the Guardian.