Column: Narragansett verdict won't stop saga

"The state police were understandably pleased with the outcome of the Narragansett Indian smoke-shop trial — Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and two others were convicted — but this saga will continue to course through Rhode Island’s history.

It is a history that, certainly from the tribe’s point of view, has been marked by heartache.

Consider these words from Bella Noka, who yesterday was acquitted — I repeat, acquitted — of the charges against her.

She told me, “They make me sick. The state of Rhode Island. We are reminders of their awful past and we are constant reminders of everything they’ve done and they won’t stop until we no longer exist.”

Years from now people still will debate the 2003 decision of Republican Governor Carcieri to send the state police in and, more especially, the role of Democratic Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who pressed a reluctant governor to do so. Carcieri is done with elective politics, but the term-limited Lynch may run for governor in 2010.

Through the years, some people will still wonder whether the police had to be so violent, and others will say the Indians brought it on by opening the tax-free shop in the first place and by rough treatment of the troopers.

And TV viewers will continue to catch glimpses of footage of the raid that will crop up in news accounts of legal maneuvering or in flashbacks and they will see the German shepherd police dog and the chaos and, whatever their views on who was at fault, hairs will raise on their necks."

Get the Story:
M. Charles Bakst: Reflections on the verdicts in the Narragansett Indian smoke-shop trial (The Providence Journal 4/5)

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