- #FreeBritney activists told Insider they feel “vindicated” after Spears’ testimony.
- For years, the movement was dismissed as a conspiracy theory by many, including Spears’ dad Jamie.
- “My purpose here is to help Britney Spears regain fully her civil rights,” an activist told Insider.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
After years of being dismissed as conspiracy theorists, #FreeBritney organizers say they do feel a “sense of vindication” after Britney Spears’ explosive testimony at her conservatorship hearing.
On June 23, Spears spoke publicly for the first time about her conservatorship, asking the court to end the “abusive” 13-year legal arrangement that she said allowed her little control of her personal life. Among many shocking revelations, the pop star alleged in her testimony that she was made to work long hours and denied the right to remove an IUD despite wanting more children.
New Jersey-based attorney BJ Courville, who has been involved with the #FreeBritney movement for about a year, told Insider on Tuesday that she wasn’t particularly surprised by the allegations Spears made in her testimony. She said that Spears’ fans “who love her and have followed her for so long” have long-speculated that the pop star’s personal life is closely-monitored by her conservators.
Still, Courville didn’t expect to hear Spears give such detailed allegations of all the ways the conservatorship has harmed her. The attorney said she assumed Spears was going to use the hearing to ask the court to remove her father, Jamie Spears, as her conservator or some other “very specific and sorta small ask” like requesting a medical evaluation again.
“I was pleasantly surprised that she went in,” she added.
Jamie first gained control of Spears’ estate, business decisions, and many parts of her personal life when her conservatorship was approved in Los Angeles in 2008 after the pop star experienced a series of public mental-health crises.
On Wednesday, a week after Spears said during her June court testimony that Jamie “loved the control to hurt his own daughter,” Judge Brenda Penny formally rejected Spears’ November 2020 request to have her father removed as her conservator – meaning the court’s decision wasn’t influenced by Spears’ new bombshell testimony.
Ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, Insider spoke to some of Spears biggest supporters – Courville, “Britney’s Gram” podcast hosts Tess Barker and Barbara Gray, along with #FreeBritney activists Jordan Miller, Megan Radford, and Dustin Strand – who all expressed hope that the “Hit Me Baby One More Time” hitmaker will eventually come out of the conservatorship.
Many #FreeBritney activists have anticipated this moment for years
The #FreeBritney movement was started by Spears’ fans over a decade ago and gained traction on social media when the hashtag was popularized in 2019 and 2020, Insider’s Rachel E. Greenspan previously reported.
For years, people associated with the movement have closely followed the Grammy-winning singer’s social media and voiced concerns about how the conservatorship was affecting the singer’s well-being.
The movement went viral two years ago, in part, after cohosts Barker and Gray released a voicemail from an anonymous source (who said he was a former paralegal involved with the conservatorship) on their “Britney’s Gram” podcast in April 2019.
The unnamed source told Barker and Gray that Spears had been forced to check into a mental-health facility, although sources close to Spears told CNN at the time that the pop star had voluntarily checked herself into the facility.
Miller, who founded the Spears fan site BreatheHeavy.com in 2004, was one of the first people to advocate for the #FreeBritney movement and one of the earliest adopters of the hashtag. He told Insider he has continued to root for Spears and was “so proud” of her bravery in speaking out.
During her 24-minute long testimony, Spears said that she had previously felt unsure about going public with her allegations because she didn’t think anyone would actually believe her, calling her conservatorship situation “embarrassing and demoralizing.”
Fans were particularly moved by this admission. Miller, in particular, said he thinks it must have been “harrowing and isolating” for the pop star to feel like people wouldn’t believe her claims.
“I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like for her to be dealing with this situation for so many years,” Miller said.
Many supporters were also shocked to hear Spears’ claim that the conservatorship wouldn’t allow her to remove her IUD and have another child.
Radford, a #FreeBritney activist based out of Oklahoma, called this alleged lack of autonomy “disgusting” and “heart-wrenching.” She also claims that the movement has known “for years and years” that Spears “wanted a third baby.”
“We really started this movement without a whole lot of information. We knew a few things here and there and we had a gut feeling,” Radford said about #FreeBritney, adding that Spears’ June 23 court testimony was “even worse than what I thought.”
Strand, a #FreeBritney activist and self-styled “social justice champion,” is based in Arizona and travels by bus to protests and rallies in Los Angeles. He was one of about 100 Spears supporters who rallied outside the courthouse during the June 23 hearing and told Insider the energy among the fans gathered was “electric.”
“As we were marching around the courthouse, the first thing I heard was her saying she’s not going to be a slave anymore. That’s when I knew she’s not messing around,” Strand recalled.
Strand said that Spears’ conservatorship battle changed how he perceives celebrities and how, at times, they need someone championing them beyond the stage and bright lights.
“You never think about having to champion your favorite celebrities’ legal rights,” Strand continued. “You want to be at a concert or listening to their music with everyone else. But I had such a strong experience from attending the #FreeBritney rallies and meeting all these people who support her than ever attending a Britney Spears concert.”
“At the end of the day, she’s just a person and she wants to get in her car and drive anywhere she wants like anybody else,” Strand added.
Jamie Spears previously dismissed #FreeBritney as a conspiracy theory
Jamie has received considerable backlash on social media for his alleged control over his daughter’s life, especially after Spears’ moving testimony.
In response, Jamie’s attorneys argued in court documents, obtained by Insider, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County that he has no involvement in Spears’ “current medical treatment” and her “personal affairs.”
Instead, Jamie’s legal team pointed to temporary coconservator Jodi Montgomery and Spears’ attorney Ingham, claiming that Jamie stopped making decisions related to his daughter’s “personal affairs” after Montgomery signed on as a temporary conservator in September 2019.
Representatives for Montgomery countered Jamie’s statements and told Insider in an email statement that Montgomery has been a “tireless advocate” for Spears since she became the pop star’s coconservator.
Two days after Jamie denied having control of Spears’ “personal affairs,” Bessemer Trust, a third-party financial service elected as Spears’ coconservator in November, filed to withdraw from the guardianship, citing Spears’ emphatic request to end the conservatorship.
“Petitioner has heard the Conservatee and respects her wishes,” the Thursday court filing, reviewed by Insider, said in part.
Jamie previously called #FreeBritney “a joke” in an August 2020 interview with Page Six.
“All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” Jamie told the publication. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.”
Radford said #FreeBritney activists didn’t let Jamie’s dismissive comments about the movement last year discourage them.
“Jamie Spears tried to write us off as conspiracy theorists and crazed fans, but we knew in our hearts that we were right,” she said.
Miller admitted he questioned himself in the early days of the movement.
“For many years I felt super gaslit in a way,” he admitted. “I was like, ‘Am I hurting Britney by talking about something where I don’t know all the information?'”
Miller said that he went though a full decade of thinking he should “pump the brakes on #FreeBritney,” but added that he continued on because he had a “gut feeling” to “push forward” in trying to find out more about Spears’ conservatorship.
“Now that the truth is out,” Miller added, “selfishly I do feel a little sense of vindication because I really questioned myself for a long time.”
Despite years of self-doubt, the activists actually had Spears’ support long before her June court testimony.
Last September, Ingham said in court documents that the #FreeBritney movement is “far from being a conspiracy theory,” Refinery29 reported.
“Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,” Ingham wrote.
Some #FreeBritney activists said it’s ‘frustrating’ that Spears’ situation hasn’t changed already
Despite renewed public interest in Spears’ conservatorship case following her powerful testimony, both Radford and Miller separately told Insider “it’s incredibly frustrating” that nothing has changed yet after the testimony.
Others were more hopeful in the immediate aftermath of Spears speaking out. “Britney’s Gram” cohosts Barker and Gray (who are launching a new investigative podcast focused on Spears’ conservatorship, titled “Toxic,” on July 7) said Wednesday, hours before news broke that the judge had rejected Spears’ request to remove Jamie as conservator, that they’re “optimistic” the conservatorship will eventually come to an end.
“Britney showed a lot of bravery in being willing to speak about her truth and what happened to her,” Barker said. “So I hope that if there are hearings around terminating the conservatorship, she continues to do that.”
Courville similarly told Insider Tuesday that she “firmly believes” that Spears will “get out” of her conservatorship and hopes that the pop star can one day “live the life that is most authentic to her.”
“My purpose here is to help Britney Spears regain fully her civil rights and liberties so that she can make choices for herself, her own money, her own body,” she added. “That’s what I’m hopeful for. I actually strongly believe that will happen.”
Several #FreeBritney activists say they still have hope that Spears’ conservatorship will end – even after the judge’s ruling Wednesday
While the recent rejection of Spears’ request to remove Jamie as her conservator was an apparent setback, Courville told Insider that, in reality, this was just a ratification of a legal decision that had been in the works for months before Spears’ testimony.
Still, some are frustrated with this development ahead of Spears’ next hearing, scheduled for July 14.
“What else does this woman need to say for there to be any meaningful change?” Miller asked.
Other #FreeBritney supporters, however, are still hopeful that things will change…soon.
“I still very much believe Britney will be a free woman,” Radford told Insider Thursday.