Terrified that NY State may actually do the unthinkable-that is, enforce the cigarette taxes against the black marketeers-a group of around 50 Indians whooped it up in front of City Hall yesterday. As Daily Politics reports: "Mayor Bloomberg's going to have some company at City Hall this afternoon, thanks to comments he made about Gov. Paterson and collecting cigarette taxes from Native Americans."
All of this is, of course, a classic case of misdirection-trying to take the focus away from the fact that these Indians are little more than colorful scofflaws. But instead of being ashamed of their illegal tobacco operations-often run by former drug dealers-they go on the offensive-and offensive they are: "As Jim Odato noted in the Times-Union today, "As the Sept. 1 effective date of taxing Native American cigarette sales nears, tempers are rising in Indian Country. Even historically cool-headed leaders are angry, and were amazed that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg fanned the flames by saying Gov. David Paterson should stick to his tax policy by donning a cowboy hat, grabbing a shotgun and standing in the Thruway to lay down the law."
Perhaps the mayor was a bit politically incorrect-but his statements were in response to the threat of potential violence-something that isn't purely hypothetical, as we have seen: "Seneca Indians set bonfires and threw rocks along the New York State Thruway - shutting down a 30-mile stretch for more than 10 hours - in a protest over new taxes on tobacco and fuel sales on reservations. It was the second protest in as many days. Fourteen people were arrested. The protest closed part of the Thruway, which borders the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, between Hamburg, just south of Buffalo, and Dunkirk. The protests were prompted by an appeals court ruling last week that the state is permitted to tax cigarettes and gasoline sold by reservation retailers to non-Indians." (1991)
So, the rioter's veto is alright, but those who say that the governor should respond with force must be called to task. The mayor's spokesman gets the legalities right at the DP blog: "Responded Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser: “The Supreme Court has ruled several times that Tribes have no right to sell cigarettes in violation of State tax laws - and Congress has now reinforced that with a new Federal law as well."
But that didn't stop a little Indian razzmatazz-as Frank Lombardi reports on DP (watch the video): "Here's Ginew Benton, an Ojbway-Cree and resident of the Shinnecock Reservation on Long Island, leading a chant for "leadership" during this afternoon's protest on the steps of City Hall. More than 50 representatives of Native American tribes and groups condemned what they denounced as “racist” and insensitive stereotypical remarks about Native Americans. They denounced Mayor Bloomberg’s Aug. 13 comments on his weekly WOR radio show with John Gambling, cracking that Gov. Paterson should put an end to unpaid cigarette taxes on upstate reservations by, ”Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun” and stand in the middle of the NY Thruway and enforce the law. The protesters said that for them, cowboys and shotguns evoke the perpetrators of massacres of Indian tribes in American history and are no joking matter."
Violating the law for the better part of two decades isn't a joke either-and if the tribes want others to show them a degree of sensitivity then they need to clean up their own act. Lawlessness gets them zero sympathy in these quarters, pardner.