Society & Culture, Practice & Voice

We Can’t Breathe Protest: All Souls Medical Response Team Report

On the eve of the planned protest, in collaboration with protest organizers, Rev. Marlin Lavanhar ensured All Souls would provide a safe respite and First Aid facility for the protesters, in part because of the proximity of the Church campus to the protest location and the church’s commitment to racial justice.

“I can use All Souls as an example. When we shut down Brookside and shut down the interstate, I didn’t have to worry about water. I didn’t have to worry about if we needed nurses, doctors, or snacks, or anything. They were there. It was beautiful.”

Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, visiting with Rev. Barbara Prose on Sunday, June 28, 2020 “Changing the Story of Tulsa, part 2”

Creating a Team

On Friday afternoon, May 29th, Marlin asked Lynne to help Knowlan Randza put together a team of people with nursing or medical training to be ready at All Souls if people at the protest needed help with care or comfort. He said he was not expecting violence or rioting but wanted a team to be ready just in case.

Lynne called a group of nurses who attend All Souls, and almost everyone said they would come and bring supplies such as bandages, ice packs, masks, gloves, snacks, and other First Aid items. Knowlan and Corey Smith also volunteered to provide supplies and shop for more, so we were assured of plentiful snacks and bottled water.

We also called on four physicians who attend All Souls. Two came and brought more supplies. In the words of Dr Baxter: “I would rather be over prepared than overwhelmed.”

On Friday evening we set up a text message group to brainstorm supplies, actions, legal issues and possible scenarios. None of us had ever done anything like this before.

Minister Steven Williams (formerly part of the All Souls ministerial team) put us in touch with Rev. Elizabeth Mount in Indiana, PA. Rev. Mount trains street medics for marches and protests around the country. Six of us met with them for two hours over Zoom early on Saturday morning. It was an eye-opener for many, and extremely helpful.

We spent the morning and early afternoon setting up, reviewing what we had learned and getting to know each other. We also tried to keep social distancing in mind at all times.

A Peaceful Protest

We are very happy to report that the protest could be categorized as peaceful and that the Tulsa march was very safe despite the large turnout. We are definitely happy to report that we were over prepared and not overwhelmed. We cannot divulge injuries due to confidentiality concerns, but generally what we saw was minor and came in late in the afternoon, towards the end of the march. EMSA was not needed at our site. We quickly coordinated and transported over 25 cases of water when the march continued beyond the original plan of 34th and Peoria.

Marchers walked 4.5 miles over several hours. We made sure they had snacks and water to keep up their strength and fend off dehydration.

We are very happy to report that the protest could be categorized as peaceful and that the Tulsa march was very safe despite the large turnout.

We were asked to provide care and comfort to people in need during and after the Protest on Saturday May 29, 2020 near 34th and Peoria. We were also asked to provide a summary of our actions and plans for our future by the ministers and staff of All Souls.

While we in no way want to draw attention to ourselves, we feel that we were able to be successful at very short notice, and we established a basis for All Souls to provide the same response in future.

What We Learned

Here are some things we learned:

  • Every member of our Medical Response Team supported the “We Can’t Breathe” protest.
  • We learned that we want to get together again and review our strengths and weaknesses.
  • We learned we want to meet regularly.
  • We want more volunteers.
  • We learned there are lots of jobs that can be done by non-nurses and non-physicians.
  • We learned that protests have a life of their own and to be prepared for things to change rapidly.
  • We need to coordinate teams that are ready to ferry water and food to marchers. Marches often change mid-stream and end up being longer duration and distances than originally planned.
  • We learned we need an email list of interested volunteers.
  • We want to get more training in this type of service.

Thank you to Marlin for trusting us!

Chris Blake MD
Michael Baxter MD
Lynne Burson RN
Patsy Selman RN
Mary Keller RN (Retired)
Rhonda Holt RN
Sandy Schuster RN
Jeanean Doherty RN
Paul Schuster
Keith Margerison
Tami Moore
Karyn Fox
Minister Steven Williams
Corey Smith, All Souls Youth Director
Knowlan Randza, All Souls Facilities and Grounds Manager

Lynne Burson worked as a nurse for 44 years and as a Nurse-Midwife/Advanced Practice Nurse for 24 of those years. She worked in the operating room, recovery room, medical offices and labor and delivery, postpartum, high risk antepartum and as a Research Nurse. Lynn joined the Parish Nurse Team in 2019.

Watch our interview with Lynne, along with Carlos Moreno and Corey Smith, about why they chose to participate with the Medical Response Team! If you’d like to get involved, contact

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *