- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2015

The Secret Service shut down part of a two-day event for children with cancer on Saturday night, ordering hundreds of families out of a park near the White House.

Organizers for CureFest for Childhood Cancer, aligned with the Truth 365 child-cancer advocacy campaign, had obtained a permit to hold “A Night of Golden Lights” at Lafayette Square from 7 to 9 p.m., in which participants would light electric candles to raise awareness for research funding for childhood cancer, The Washington Post reported.

Organizers said the vigil came about partly because of the group’s inability to convince the White House to light up the mansion in gold to support the cause, as it did with rainbow colors in June to celebrate the Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage.

The group had already set up a stage and welcoming music had started to play when authorities ejected them, The Post reported.

“We ended up waiting at the gates for two hours, and they never let us in,” said 11-year-old Natasha Gould, who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. “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.”

Authorities told some parents that the closure was because President Obama left the White House from an entrance near the square to address the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual gala, The Post reported.

“At first, we were patient. I mean we’re a peaceful community; we’re fighting for kids’ lives,” Anthony Stoddard of New Hampshire told The Post. “But after about an hour, or hour and a half, it started getting a little angry, some of the fathers.”

“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,” Mr. Stoddard said. “It was heartbreaking.”

Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service, told The Post on Sunday that the closures were “put into place based on standard [Secret Service] protocols prior to protectee movements in the vicinity of the White House Complex.”

“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,” he said.

Organizer Michael Gillette, a documentary filmmaker from Fairfax City, Virginia, called the closure “disheartening.”

“I feel like this may be overcompensating for glaring errors that the Secret Service has made in past years. And again, we understand the need to keep our president safe. But we think a little consideration would have gone a long way,” he told The Post.


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