Britney Spears Fans Wore Their Support on Their Sleeves
Outside a Los Angeles courthouse on Wednesday, throngs of Britney Spears fans — and nearly an equal number of reporters and photographers — gathered under the afternoon sun as a judge evaluated Ms. Spears’s legal representation and conservatorship.
Supporters crammed onto a narrow sidewalk wearing official and D.I.Y. Britney Spears merchandise as they awaited news from inside the building. One attendee brought homemade #FreeBritney sugar cookies. Another had a portrait of the star tattooed on her arm. There were hand-lettered signs that read “The world is watching” and “End the Conservatorship Now!” #FreeBritney flags also flew among the ralliers as they marched around the courthouse, chanting “Free Britney now!”
The hearing, in which the judge said the singer could hire her own lawyer, came three weeks after Ms. Spears, in an impassioned courtroom speech, had denounced as abusive the conservatorship that has long controlled her personal life and her finances. Mathew S. Rosengart, a prominent Hollywood lawyer and a former federal prosecutor, will represent Ms. Spears in the future. He is expected to push for the conservatorship to end.
“We made a couple signs — one says, ‘Free Britney’; one says, ‘Let her go,’” said Anna Campbell, 20, who had come to the courthouse with her 8-month-old son, Ocean, from the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. “We actually were thinking maybe we should stay in the car, just in case. I know a couple things have happened in the past protests, but I decided: You know what? I’ll just bring him, because I think it will be safe.”
Some fans traveled longer distances to show their support for the star. One mother and daughter came from Marlborough, Mass., with dad in tow. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida gave a speech denouncing Ms. Spears’s father, Jamie Spears, the news media and the justice system.
Alexis Hodoyán-Gastélum, 31, and Anna Bon-Hodoyán, 32, traveled from Tijuana, Mexico, to attend the rally. Ms. Bon-Hodoyán wore a bucket hat, and Ms. Hodoyán-Gastélum sported Gucci sunglasses as protection from the glaring sun.
Many of the protesters at the courthouse have become fixtures in a movement that sees Ms. Spears’s conservatorship as a greed-fueled, authoritarian means of controlling her life and her fortune. The campaign to #FreeBritney has grown dramatically in the past few years and has attracted support from conservatorship reform activists.
Still, it was the first time protesting in person for many who showed up on Wednesday.
“I’ve been a fan since I was born,” said Kaitlin May, 20. She and her friend, Sammy Arellano, 20, drove from a few hours north of Santa Maria, Calif. “I remember growing up with her music. My mom loved her.”
“We think the more people here to show her support and love is better and can help her out with their situation, because what’s going on is just not OK,” Ms. May said. She and Mr. Arellano were holding cups from Subway, but not only for hydration. “We’ve got our Subway cups because she threw her Subway cup at the paparazzi,” she said.
At times, the crowd broke out in song. They sang along to an acoustic rendition of “Lucky,” Ms. Spears’s early hit about the less glamorous side of superstardom.
Later, Heaven Espejo, 24, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, who was sporting bright eye makeup and butterfly clips, played ukulele and sang Ms. Spears’s songs “Oops! … I Did It Again” and “Toxic.”
“I kind of do a fairy thing always, and I just did these braids to dry my hair,” she said, before adding, in reference to Ms. Spears’s hair in the “… Baby One More Time” video, “And then I was like, wait, these are actually on point right now because it’s, like, her braids.”
“I didn’t know the vibe,” Ms. Espejo said. “I didn’t want to come here and just, like, make a spectacle of myself. I kind of wanted to make it a her thing. But I’m still going to be me, you know — colorful and stuff.”
Ms. Spears wasn’t at the courthouse in person, but she might have sensed the energy of the crowd. After the hearing, she tweeted and posted to Instagram a video of herself doing cartwheels and riding a horse, accompanying the posts with a caption that read, in part: “Thank you to my fans who are supporting me … You have no idea what it means to me be supported by such awesome fans!!!!”
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