Hundreds of Gibson Guitar supporters rallied for the legendary guitar factory at a dual demonstration-concert in Nashville, Tenn. Saturday, following a federal raid in August over the company's importation practices.
The "We Stand With Gibson" rally drew about 500 attendees, including members of the Tea Party, according to the Tennessean. Some carried signs that read "Who's next" and "When they come for you, who will be left to speak?"
Gibson supporters have railed against perceived government overreach, saying it's putting a boot on the neck of business owners during tough economic times.
Among those who spoke at the rally were Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and National Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer. In September, Blackburn invited Juszkiewicz to attend President Barack Obama's jobs speech in Washington as her guest.
The Tennessean reported:
The rally and concert were organized online by a coalition of several dozen groups — most self-identified as tea party affiliates — in response to a federal raid on the company’s Nashville and Memphis offices in August. Federal law enforcement officials confiscated pallets of wood, guitars and computer hard drives from the company on suspicion it violated U.S. environmental laws. It was the second raid in two years on the 117-year-old guitar company. No charges have been filed, and Gibson denies any wrongdoing.
Appearing on the temporary stage set up in a restaurant parking lot across from the Opryland Hotel, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz thanked the audience and vowed that his company — with continued public support — would “fight the injustice and unfairness together. We will fight, and we will make sure other companies do not face bullies with guns. With your help, we will make permanent changes.”
"Here you have a factory trying to stay in business, and keep American artisans employed...and here you've got the federal government trying to shut them down" Blackburn said, according to Nashville's WTVF-TV.
"People don't hire, they don't expand when there's uncertainty wrapped around the laws, rules and regulation," she added.
Event organizer Ben Cunningham told the station, "Every American business should not fear the federal government showing up at their front door with guns drawn." Federal agents were armed when the entered the premises, although according to reports they did not draw their weapons.
Still, Cunningham and others were of the mentality that if the government can raid Gibson, who's next?
"When that is allowed, government is abusing its power and authority, and that's scary," he said.