- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (AP) — The chief sachem of the Narragansett Indian Tribe was arrested yesterday by state police in a raid on the tribe’s new tax-free tobacco shop.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, First Councilman Randy Noka and other tribal members were arrested as police entered the smoke shop.

Mr. Thomas and Mr. Noka were released on $100 bail each and returned to the reservation shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday. Dozens of tribe members greeted them with hugs and cheers.

“I knew this would happen,” said Mr. Thomas.

Republican Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, who was out of town during the raid, has said the shop violates federal and state laws.

A videotape of the raid shows state police marching in a line toward the smoke shop and forcing their way in. Several tribe members were wrestled to the ground and handcuffed.

The video also shows Mr. Thomas with his arms wrapped around a state trooper at the top of the shop’s front steps, and one tribe member appears to have his hand on a state trooper’s throat.

The tape also shows a police dog nipping at the clothing of a man who is handcuffed and face-down on the ground.

Paulla Dove, 63, a member of the tribal council, said the police also confiscated cigarettes from the shelves and took about $900 from the cash register.

The Narragansetts, who have been federally recognized since 1983, opened their tax-free smoke shop on Saturday on tribal land in Charlestown. The tribe is selling the cigarettes without sales tax or cigarette tax, in an effort to become economically self-sufficient. The tribe has been stymied for years in its efforts to build a casino.

Mr. Thomas has said tribal elders are following the lead of tribes in several other states that operate tax-free smoke shops.

After Monday’s arrests, tribe members gathered at the site, using their trucks to block access to the store.

“This is outrageous. We won’t take this lying down,” said tribe member Loren Spears. She said the federal government should step in and “tell the people of Rhode Island we have a right to be here and support our families.”

Eleanor Dove-Harris, 23, said her husband, Thawn Harris, is a police officer for the tribe. She said he was thrown to the ground and kneed in the back by a state policeman.

“For 500 years we’ve been oppressed and it continues,” Mrs. Dove-Harris said. “When will it end?”


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