Whether you like her music or not, almost everyone is familiar with Britney Spears.
The singer of “Oops!... I Did It Again” has released hit singles, albums and music videos for about 20 years, but her fans say she needs more power over her own life.
Around 40 protesters clad in flashy outfits and face masks holding pink signs saying #FreeBritney gathered and marched around Stanley Mosk Courthouse on July 22 to raise awareness for Spears’ conservatorship.
A conservatorship is a guardian or a protector who is appointed by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another due to physical or mental limitations, or old age. A conservator may make arrangements for the conservatee’s meals, health care, clothing, personal care, housekeeping, transportation, shelter, recreation and well-being, according to an official California Courts government website.
After Spears suffered multiple well-documented mental breakdowns in the late 2000s, she was placed under a conservatorship by her father.
Fans at the protest call this “abusive.”
A protester used a pink megaphone to lead chants saying, “What do we want? Free Britney! When do we want it? Now!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! This conservatorship has got to go!”
“A lot of people aren’t aware of the type of restraints that she’s under,” said LA resident Carlos Caldera, 30. “For so many years her team has done a great job at making it seem like everything is OK through the media, and in reality it’s not.”
Spears’ sister, Jamie Lynn, has shut down fans’ rumors that the situation is abusive. Other people close to Spears have told multiple news outlets that the arrangement helps the superstar, also stating that she is very much involved with her own business affairs. However, Spears’ mother has reportedly liked a handful of comments speaking out in support of the #FreeBritney campaign on social media.
Spears’ father and former conservator originally claimed in court documents that the permanent conservatorship was necessary due to her “dementia,” which prevented her from making her own decisions.
Caldera and many fans argue that if the claims are true that 38-year-old Spears needs this conservatorship due to such severe mental health problems, why has she released multiple albums, guest starred on TV shows, and held a four-year Las Vegas residency?
“We’re out here to be her voice,” said Alex Garcia, 27, a Britney Spears fan and Sacramento resident. “We hope some kind of monumental thing happens today with the progress of her getting free, and in the long run we just hope she gets her autonomy back.”
The private court case was held to review the current role of Spears’ “care manager” and temporary conservator, Jodi Montgomery. Spears’ father, mother and “care manager” attended virtually, and Spears was supposed to speak as well but reportedly wasn’t able to due to Wi-Fi issues.
However, during that same time, she posted a photo to her Instagram account. Because of the “technical difficulties,” the case will be continued on August 19, when the status of her conservatorship will be further discussed.
What was supposed to be a temporary conservatorship that was granted in 2008 has continued. For about a decade, her father, Jamie, had full control over Spears and shared control of her estate with their attorney, Andrew Wallet, documents say.
Wallet resigned as co-conservator in 2019 and left Jamie as the full conservator. Later that year, her father reportedly filed paperwork to temporarily step down as Spears’ conservator due to personal health reasons. Around that same time, Jamie was involved in an altercation with Spears’ teenage son, Sean. Reports say he wasn’t charged.
Since then, the sole conservator of Spears has changed to Montgomery. What is #FreeBritney and what is its goal?
The #FreeBritney movement began in 2009 but started gaining traction recently when a weekly podcast called Britney’s Gram started gaining popularity, multiple fans said. Comedians Tess Barker and Barbara Gray use the podcast to dissect and investigate Spears’ Instagram posts.
There are a lot of supporters of the #FreeBritney movement, including Miley Cyrus and Paris Hilton. However, not everyone is buying it.
Many think the situation is unbelievable, and that’s why people are having a hard time supporting the movement, said Lareina Adair, 24, who traveled with her friends from Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend the protest.
“People are also thinking this is sort of laughable because it’s Britney Spears and she’s been the butt of the joke for so long,” Adair said. “I think maybe if it was someone else, not—I hate saying this—like a ‘dumb blonde’ like Britney, it would be taken more seriously.”
A 2007 video of a fan crying and yelling “Leave Britney Alone!” has become a staple, but fans have pointed out that this situation is no joking matter. The conservatorship prevents Spears from having a normal relationship with her children, Caldera and other fans noted.
“It’s just sad that her sons have grown up pretty much without her,” Caldera said. “As a father of two kids myself, I could not even imagine someone taking away my rights and my freedom. I just—I don’t know how she does it.”
California’s court system needs to make some changes to prevent the abuse of people in harmful conservatorship agreements, Caldera said, adding that it’s not just Spears that is in this kind of restrictive situation, but her fame and dedicated fan base has created a platform to advocate against this kind of abuse.
“At this point,” Adair said, “It’s not even a matter if you’re a Britney fan; it’s if you’re a fan of human rights.”