The Secret Service has apologized after herding hundreds of parents and children out of Washington DC’s Lafayette Square on Saturday evening, where they were attempting to hold a candlelight vigil for childhood cancer. That is cold, even for them.

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The vigil was the culmination of CureFest for Childhood Cancer, a two-day event held in the nation’s capital, intended to “unite the childhood cancer community and the general public as one voice against childhood cancer and to make childhood cancer a national priority.”

“We ended up waiting at the gates for two hours and they never let us in,” said Natasha Gould, an 11-year-old who was invited to speak at the event after blogging about her experience being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, in an interview with the Washington Post.

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“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.”

The Secret Service explained in a statement that it was standard protocol to barricade the area while the president is traveling by motorcade. The statement did not clarify why the 700 CureFest attendees were kept out of the park for so long.

Spokesperson Brian Leary continued: “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.”

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Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy has also apologized for the incident in a telephone call with one of the organizers of the event.

In an interview with USA Today, CureFest advocate Mike Gillette said, “[Clancy] was very open and honest, saying that they made a mistake.” He also noted that Clancy had offered to speak to CureFest at its next event, and had invited the group for a tour at the Secret Service’s training facility.

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CureFest may attempt another event in October, but Gillette worries many of the families won’t be able to travel a second time.

“We never thought there was any malice intended. We’re just a bunch of families who care about kids with cancer.”


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

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Image via Getty.