Outside Britney Spears' courtroom, protesters call for her to be 'free by 40'
Britney Spears turns 40 in December. And it's looking likely she might be able to celebrate, for the first time since her mid-20s, however the hell she wants.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny officially suspended Britney's father, Jamie Spears, from his role as conservator of her estate. The hearing was a major turning point in the case of her conservatorship — which has been in place for 13 years, during which time Britney has not been empowered to make decisions for herself — though it didn't go the way some fans had thought it would.
Wednesday afternoon, protesters for the #FreeBritney movement gathered outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown L.A. Organizers had arranged for the street outside the courthouse to be closed to traffic, so the fuchsia-clad activists, wielding signs bearing Britney lyrics, calls for her freedom, and/or angry sentiments about Jamie, spread out in the road. While waiting to hear updates from the courtroom, they listened to advocates sharing their own stories of conservatorship abuse. They marched in chaotic loops around the closed-off block and finally around the building itself, stopping in front of Judge Penny's window to chant "Do the right thing!" and "Free Britney now!"
Because that was the target on everyone's mind: Free her. End the conservatorship. The speakers were affecting, but their harrowing statements about the horrors of conservatorship also reinforced the wish that Britney would be fully liberated that afternoon. There was a slight edginess to the gathering that increased as time wore on, knowing what was going on in the building a few yards away.
When the news of Jamie's suspension — which had been widely predicted, though complete termination of the conservatorship was also a possibility —reached the crowd, the reaction was extremely emotional, even if it wasn't the dramatic update that termination would have been. Once the screams died down, the chants started up again, including "Jail Jamie now!"
The campaign for Britney's freedom has gained major traction over the course of 2021, beginning with the February release of Framing Britney Spears; then came the June court hearing in which Britney delivered astonishing testimony asking for her life back, and July brought the appointment of her new lawyer Mathew Rosengart, who has aggressively pursued changes to the conservatorship, beginning with the removal of Jamie.
If a person who knew nothing about the case were dropped into the #FreeBritney rally, they might assume Rosengart is Captain America for the adoration with which the group spoke about him. The outsider wouldn't be be disabused of the notion, either, when Rosengart arrived to speak to the press — almost four hours after many of the protesters had first gathered, but they stuck around to wait for him, parting like the Red Sea to let him through to address the cameras.
"I'm so pleased and proud to say that Jamie Spears is no longer a conservator," said Rosengart, wearing a bright pink tie that matched the "FREE BRITNEY" banner behind him. Once the cheers died down, he continued, "Jamie Spears and others are going to face even more serious ramifications for this misconduct."
About that misconduct: Last Friday, FX released the Framing Britney Spears follow-up Controlling Britney Spears (produced by The New York Times, which also published an accompanying report the same day), which alleged that Jamie secretly planted a recording device in his daughter's bedroom and tracked all communications on her iPhone.
"I suspect law enforcement will be taking a hard look at what the Times uncovered and reported on Sept. 24," said Rosengart, who has maintained the necessity of an investigation into Jamie's conduct as conservator. "And I fully believe that that is why — and I believe Judge Penny agreed with me — his lawyer was fighting so hard against suspension. What happens now as the result of him being suspended is he is obligated under the law to turn over his files to the temporary conservator. Those files are supposed to also consist of attorney-client communications. Those attorney-client communications are, in other words, between Mr. Spears and his lawyers."
Rosengart said he believes those communications "will reveal corruption" that "we look forward to vigorously looking into."
The goal Wednesday was "to suspend Jamie Spears," Rosengart continued. "That's what today was about. And that's what happened in court today." He expects the ultimate termination (which he believes to be "inevitable" at this point) to happen in the fall, specifically at the next hearing, on Nov. 12. That would make Britney, as one advocate cried out upon sharing the court date with the crowd, "free by 40!"
Much of Rosengart's speech was punctuated by hearty cheers from the assembled fans. But nothing, perhaps, more so than the encouragement: "I think the support of the #FreeBritney movement has been instrumental," he said. "It allowed my firm to carry the ball across the finish line."
- Britney Spears' father removed as conservator, bringing her one step closer to freedom
- Britney Spears granted permission to hire her own lawyer in conservatorship case
- Britney Spears speaks in court: 'I just want my life back'
- The #FreeBritney movement finds vindication in Britney Spears' hearing: 'We just witnessed history'