Narragansetts Remember Smoke Shop Raid 10 Years Later

Jul 15, 2013

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the Narragansett Smoke Shop raid --- an event that turned into a brawl in which tribal members and state troopers were injured.  The tribe marked the occasion at the former site of the smoke shop in Charlestown.

Narragansetts observe 10th anniversary of raid on tribal smoke shop in Charlestown.
Credit Flo Jonic / RIPR

Ten years may have passed since dozens of state troopers stormed the Narragansett smoke shop in Charlestown, but hard feelings remain.  At a 10th anniversary event Sunday, tribal members denounced what they still consider an excessive use of force.  Randy Noka is tribal ambassador:

"We were ready to go to court but no, they one-upped us by coming in with state troopers like that. I know they were doing their job. I have respect for law enforcement. I have a lot of disrespect for the Governor at the time for ordering that raid," said Noka.

That governor was Don Carcieri.  He ordered the highly publicized raid after the tribe opened the shop on its land and started selling cigarettes without the state tax.

Tribal chief Matthew Thomas sounded a defiant note.

"Bottom line is we fought that day, and I’ll call it fighting because that’s all they know how to do with us since they landed here but we’re here, we’re always going to be here. We’re not going away," said Thomas.

A federal appeals court ruled the tribe had been operating the shop illegally. Three Indians, including the chief, were later convicted of resisting arrest and/or disorderly conduct.

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