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Tea Partiers In Tune With Gibson

Organizers for Saturday afternoon’s “We Stand With Gibson” rally/concert in Nashville say the event is geared more toward people seeking a good time than looking for a political rant fest.

Clearly, though, with a line-up that, in addition to musical performers, includes conservative radio hosts Steve Gill and Phil Valentine, and Memphis Tea Party founder Mark Skoda — as well as U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Gibson Guitar’s CEO himself, Henry Juszkiewicz — there’ll no doubt be plenty of fire-breathing to accompany the cool harmonies.

The purpose of the event is, after all, to raise awareness and fuel outrage about an incident that one function organizer says has galvanized anti-government sentiment like no other in quite a while.

“I don’t think any other issue has captured the passions of tea partiers like this one has in the last year,” said Ben Cunningham, a blogger and spokesman for Tennessee Tax Revolt.

“There is near universal agreement among the tea party and conservative groups that the raids — the one that occurred in August and the one that occurred two years ago — were an overreach by the federal government. It was an abuse of power and authority,” said Cunningham.

The purpose of the “We Stand With Gibson” event is to say to the federal government, “Back off,” Cunningham said during a press conference Wednesday.

The gathering, which is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. at the Scoreboard Restaurant & Sports Bar, was also planned with the idea in mind of people coming together in support of others facing difficulty and uncertainty — like they did during the floods of 2010, Ken Marrero, a blogger and rally organizer, added.

The victims in this case, said Marrero, are Juszkiewicz and the employees of Gibson. Their place of work was inundated back in August with federal agents who allege Gibson illegally imported wood from India in violation of a recently amended U.S. law known as the Lacey Act.

The agents seized wood, guitars and other company property, according to the company. No charges have been filed, although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency conducting the investigation, is reportedly considering filing a criminal complaint.

In a sworn statement filed last month, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Kevin L. Seiler wrote that after reviewing Juszkiewicz’s public statements in the wake of the raid on Gibson, “it is clear that Gibson understands the purpose of the Lacey Act, and understands that the (seized company property), which is fingerboard blanks, are not finished fingerboards and thus Gibson is aware that its order for fingerboard blanks was an order for contraband ebony wood or ebony wood which is illegal to possess.”

Marrero said he supports the idea of government regulating natural resource extraction and prohibiting Americans from violating the environmental and wildlife protection laws of other countries, which is ostensibly the purpose of the Lacey Act.

But he thinks the federal agents stepped way over the line in the Gibson case, both in the way they are interpreting the law and the way they executed the raid.

Marrero said it is his understanding that Indian law — at least according to the Indian government — has not been violated. India’s deputy director-general of foreign trade reportedly stated in a Sept. 16 letter, “Fingerboard is a finished product and not wood in primary form,” and that the “foreign trade policy of the government of India allows free export of such finished products of wood.”

Marrero wonders why the United States government “is enforcing a law that the Indian government doesn’t even consider is a violation.”

“How is that right?” he said.

Cunningham, too, condemns what he described as the “hideously complex” web of regulations that businesses and taxpayers have to understand, negotiate and abide by to remain in compliance with federal law.

“We have all kinds of these 2,000-page laws that empower bureaucrats to be petty tyrants,” said Cunningham. “Think of the IRS code.”

In any event, said Cunningham, when government officials do perceive that some nonviolent violation of a rule or regulation has occurred, the proper course is to “call (an alleged violator) up on the phone and say, ‘We are concerned about this law and your compliance with the law.'”

“You don’t send armed agents with their guns drawn into their corporate headquarters. That is an abuse of power, and that is our government abusing the power that we grant to them,” said Cunningham. “And that is why we are here — we are holding them accountable for this abuse of power. It’s got to stop. And we the people are coming here on Saturday to say that to our federal government.”

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Press Releases

Nashville Rally in Support of Gibson Guitar Planned for Oct. 8

Press Release from Tennessee Tax Revolt; Oct. 3, 2011:

Support Rally and Concert Planned

Nashville, TN – (October, 3 2011) Over 60 state and national tea party and conservative groups unite in a show of support for the embattled Gibson Guitar Corp. A rally and concert will be held on Saturday October 8th from 2 to 4pm at the Scoreboard Grill at 2408 Music Valley Dr. Nashville, TN. Preshow music and vendor booth visits will begin at 1pm.

The rally is being held to draw attention to the ongoing plight of Gibson after a second round of raids by federal agents was conducted this August. This raid, and an earlier one in 2009 were in response to the companies use and importation of rare and exotic woods in the manufacture of their iconic guitars. The basis of the federal action lies in an interpretation of the Lacey Act as amended in 2008 which makes it illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant taken in violation of any Federal, state, tribal, or foreign law that protects plants. Gibson contends that its importation of these woods was in complete compliance with all laws of the countries of origin and in fact is in possession of documentation affirming compliance from the governments of the exporting countries. Concerned citizens view this action as an abuse of power and an overreach of the federal government.

The rally and concert will feature Congressman Marsha Blackburn, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, talk radio hosts Steve Gill and Phil Valentine and Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer. Performing artists include Bruce Bellott, Krista Branch, Rivoli Revue, Madison Rising, 16 year old guitar phenom Grant Austin Taylor, and Eric Lee Beddingfield.

Sponsoring partners will be on hand with booths for information, plenty of good food, and a few surprises. Please bring your lawn chairs, as we will have a portion of the parking lot blocked off for the evening festivities. Please check the website at www.gibsonrally.com for details, parking plan, and any last minute additions.

The event organizers will hold a press conference on Wednesday October 5th at 12 noon at the Scoreboard to discuss the rally objectives and release the final lineup.