Group Marks Anniversary Of Controversial Police Raid On Tribal Smoke Shop

About 45 people gathered outside the former smoke shop

Matthew Thomas, chief sachem of the Narragansett Indian tribe, remembers the day clearly. It still angers him.

On July 14, 2003, dozens of Rhode Island state troopers raided the tribe’s just-opened cigarette store on Route 2. Indians and police were injured in the raid, which quickly turned violent.

“I remember all those big Staties — they were bigger than me — and I thought, ‘Somebody is going to get killed,’ ” Thomas said Sunday. “They could have handled it differently.”

About 45 people gathered outside the former smoke shop — now used for tribal meetings — to remember the event 10 years ago.

After its latest proposal to build a casino failed in 2003, the tribe began selling tax-free cigarettes in a small, prefabricated shop on its land. For the first two days, business was brisk.

Then, on orders from then-Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, the police stormed the business.

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