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Violent raid over tobacco shop dispute results in arrests

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CHARLESTOWN, R.I. - Several Rhode Island State troopers raided the Narragansett Reservation on July 14 in an attempt to shut down the tribe's new tax-free tobacco shop. Seven tribal members including Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and Council Member Randy Noka were arrested. Thomas was allegedly arrested for disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer.

Troopers armed with police dogs and many equipped with guns, entered the reservation early in the afternoon and the incident quickly turned violent with many troopers pushing and throwing tribal bystanders. Much of the violence was caught on film and video and broadcast nationally.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Gov. Don Carcieri said the shop, which opened on July 12 violates federal and state laws. He challenges that because of several provisions in the tribe's 1983 land claim settlement act, any land except those specifically outlined in the act, are subject to the civil and criminal laws and jurisdiction of the state of Rhode Island.

After being released on bail, Thomas spoke at an evening press conference. He said "I explained to him [Gov. Carcieri] that if we're going to disagree on a smoke shop, we should do it in the courtroom."

In addition to the aggressive attack, reports say that police confiscated the cigarettes that remained on the shelves and took money from the cash register.