How #FreeBritney went from a small group of fans to a global movement

People Britney Spears
Posted at 7:54 PM, Jun 22, 2021

"Free Britney" is the rallying cry for fans and advocates of Britney Spears. 

"On April 22, 2019, I was one of the first people to get to the Britney Spears rally, I guess you could say," said Grant Rutter, host of the Grant Rants Hollywood Talk podcast.

"I was a part of the very first one, there was literally a handful of us. I was so nervous. I was like 'they're gonna literally think I'm crazy,'" said supporter Junior Olivas.

The pop star has been under a strict conservatorship since 2008 after concerns were raised about her mental and physical well-being. The conservatorship restricts Spears' ability to make her own business deals, medical decisions and even see her sons. 

"That's one of the things that, I think, hits me the most is just that her motherhood has just been ripped away," said #FreeBritney supporter Gibson Erchul.

"We're talking about going on years and years and years and years now. Homegirl wants to do her thing," said supporter Rachel Schell.

And so the "#FreeBritney" movement was born as a small group of concerned fans. 

"'Free Britney' was first mentioned on the internet, I would say, in 2009 — shortly after Britney's conservatorship became permanent. I made a homemade t-shirt that said 'Free Britney' that I staged at a little mini protest," said supporter Megan Radford:

The movement soon grew and went viral on social media, propelled by podcasts like "Britney's Gram," worried comments on the pop star's Instagram posts, and concerning videos on TikTok.  

"The first time that it started going mainstream a little bit was in July 2020 when it kind of exploded on TikTok I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we're getting so much momentum.' And then 'Framing Britney Spears' just launched us into a whole different world," said Radford.

"Sometimes we'll have parades that go through my campus, and I'll take the tapestry out and I'll hold it in front of people just to get the word out," said Erchul.

The pop star's father, Jamie Spears, has called the "Free Britney" movement a "joke" made up of "conspiracy theorists," but that hasn't stopped other high-profile celebrities — like Miley CyrusParis Hiltonand Sarah Jessica Parker — from lending their support. 

"It feels good that people are recognizing that this is a messed up situation," said Schell.

"I definitely think the public pressure and the Free Brittany movement of it all has shuffled the deck," said Rutter.

Spear's conservatorship is still heavily shrouded in mandatory secrecy. Spears has said in a court filing that it "rescued her from a collapse," but in a court record obtained by The New York Times, an investigator also wrote: "She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her." 

Now, the pop star is fighting to remove her father from having a say in controlling her fortune, estimated at nearly $60 million, and possibly going as far as terminating the system entirely.

On June 23, she's speaking for the first time in two years in front of a judge. 

"I hope that we're giving her courage to say what she wants to say," said Radford.

"Only she knows what her reality is. So I hope that she presents herself in the best way. And I hope that what she wants for herself and what is best happens for her," said Rutter.

This story originally reported by Casey Mendoza on Newsy.com