Column: Smokeshop raid still burns years later

"More than three years have passed, but the 2003 state police raid of the shop the Narragansett Indians opened on their Charlestown land to sell tax-free cigarettes still stirs tough talk.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and six other tribal members are to be arraigned in District Court today on charges of resisting and, in some cases, assaulting officers who were trying to execute a search warrant. Look at it as a preliminary step in what down the line likely will be a major courtroom drama, a Superior Court jury trial.

The charges had been on hold while federal courts weighed the state’s authority to enforce Rhode Island laws on tribal land. So now, you may be saying, 'Aha, finally, let's throw the book at these folks.' Or you may be saying, 'Enough. It's time to bury the bitterness from this episode and move on.'

As for why the state wants to proceed with the case, Attorney General Patrick Lynch tells me, 'It's a matter of prosecuting people, people that disregard the law, people that lash out at police officers that are doing their job.'"

Get the Story:
M. Charles Bakst: Smoke shop: Raid saga still smolders (The Providence Journal 1/23)

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