Britney Spears fans joined in LA to celebrate the end of her conservatorship with a wild weekend.
"Free Britney" festivities included a confetti cannon, a bar takeover, and a drag brunch.
Insider followed attendees who spearheaded the movement to end Spears' conservatorship.
Tension rose in the crowd outside the courthouse on the day of Britney Spears' release from her conservatorship.
LOS ANGELES, Cal. — Twenty minutes before Britney Spears was freed from her 13-year conservatorship on November 12, chaos was unfolding outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Hundreds of reporters, cameramen, and news vans were encircling a greater number of "Free Britney" supporters as 80-degree heat beat into black pavement.
A handful of supporters were screaming at the reporters. A white van had pulled up behind the stage at the "Free Britney" rally, and photographers for Reuters had gotten out.
"Get the fuck out of here," a man wearing a white t-shirt with a picture of a grinning 16-year-old Spears on it yelled at the reporters, one of whom responded, "Nice, blame the press."
Another "Free Britney" activist compared the throngs of reporters at the courthouse to the paparazzi who mercilessly tailed Spears in the early 2000s at the height of her fraught relationship with the press. The clash between Spears fans and photographers was indicative of their passionate advocacy for the megastar singer.
Close by the verbal spat were some of the star activists and online creators who spearheaded the "Free Britney" movement, propelling it from what skeptics called a fan conspiracy to the major media circus that preceded Spears' release.
Jake Sandt, better known as the YouTuber Jakeyonce, told Insider that Spears' online fandom created the path to her freedom.
Jake Sandt arrived at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse bright and early at 8 AM, several hours before the hearing that would officially end Spears' conservatorship began. He had flown into Los Angeles from New Jersey.
At 1 PM, he estimated that the crowd was three times larger than it had been at any Spears hearing before.
As a Spears fan, Sandt has stood outside every court hearing concerning her conservatorship since November 2020. As a YouTube content creator, the appearances bolstered his credibility within the "Free Britney" movement, which Sandt has bolstered with hours of YouTube documentary footage.
On his channel JakeyonceTV, where he used to extensively cover "RuPaul's Drag Race," Sandt has 172,000 subscribers. In his videos, he takes on a friendly but urgent tone, describing the terms of Spears' conservatorship in gritty details in front of cinematic, crisply edited footage.
When asked about his purpose for being at the rally, Sandt rattled off "Free Britney" talking points at breakneck speed. He admonished Spears' father Jamie and his lawyer Lou Taylor, who Sandt speculated was the "mastermind" behind Britney's conservatorship.
"We're looking to hold [Spears and Taylor] accountable to the full extent of the law and the court of public opinion," he said.
There were as many reporters on-site for the hearing as there were supporters of Spears.
Every major news outlet was on-site on Friday outside the courthouse to cover the end of Spears' conservatorship, but as Sandt pointed out, none of them covered the dark side of Spears' legal arrangement until YouTubers did.
"I covered [the 'Free Britney' movement] on YouTube and created a longform timeline for people to comprehend, because at the end of the day law is not meant to be understood," Sandt said. "We got all our most educated friends together, doctors, lawyers, everyone, and we're all just working together to provide legitimacy to what has been labeled a conspiracy."
On his second channel, Deep Dive — a collaboration with a YouTuber called Not Another Drama Channel — Sandt and his partner have produced more than 7 hours of "Free Britney" documentary videos.
"I have worked on this eighty hours a week for the past year," he told Insider. "I have spent every waking moment working on Britney Spears."
Creators of all types got in on the Spears coverage.
Aside from traditional media covering the "Free Britney" movement and Spears' battle to end her conservatorship, prominent members of YouTube's new media showed up to make their presence known, too including AB Ayad and Olivia Lopes of the H3 Podcast on YouTube. Hosted by Ethan and Hila Klein, the podcast boasts more than 3 million subscribers and streamed live from outside the courthouse.
A blurry livestream popped up intermittently throughout the Klein's "H3 After Dark" show, which more than 1.3 million people watched. Ethan attempted to coach his junior producers through the process of reporting a news segment, urging them to come onscreen whenever they saw "someone or something interesting."
This resulted in several live interviews with "Free Britney" supporters conducted shakily by the Kleins — at one point, Ethan asked Ayad and Lopes to interrogate a reporter, who declined to answer questions.
Spears' song "Stronger" played while pink confetti fell from the sky as the singer's supporters celebrated her freedom.
At 2:11 PM, a confetti cannon burst pink glitter into the air. As the pieces fluttered down, "Free Britney" supporters looked back and forth at each other in dazed confusion. "Is she free?" supporters asked one another.
Seconds ticked by and word spread through the crowd that Spears had been officially released from her conservatorship, which had allowed Spears' father and a lawyer to control her finances and restrict her personal life since 2008. In court testimony in June 2021, Spears called the arrangement abusive. Weeks before, both her parents had filed to dissolve the conservatorship following widespread public backlash.
Among the crowd of Spears' supporters — some of whom had been protesting the conservatorship since Spear's 2009 "Circus" tour — cheers and tears broke out.
"This is the best day of my life," one man screamed. "Stronger," a ballad about overcoming heartbreak, roared over the speakers as the crowd sang along to Spears' biggest hits.
After Spears' freedom was announced, her lawyer Matthew Rosengart took the stage to issue a statement on her behalf.
Spears' lawyer Matthew Rosengart has become a celebrity himself in the Spears fandom, and "Free Britney" supporters chanted his name as he took the stage.
"Britney loves you," Rosengart said to massive applause.
Hours after the rally, "Free Britney" supporters gathered for the first of multiple after-parties at a bar in West Hollywood.
The rallies and protests that accompanied the "Free Britney" movement took place in downtown LA, outside the courthouse, but the celebrations that followed her release were all held in West Hollywood — the center of the city's young, very online population.
The LA chapter representing the movement organized the first of several parties thrown in Spears' honor at The Naughty Pig, a bar on the historic Sunset Strip.
Dozens of Spears fans spilled out into the parking lot where "Free Britney" iconography was proudly on display.
The party inside the bar was for adults 21 and up, but some of the movement's biggest stars — including Sandt, who is 20 — weren't old enough to get in, so the crowd migrated outside to the cool California evening.
Inside the bar, which was playing footage from the rally on TVs, Spears' music played back to back to back.
Spears fans sipped on bright pink cocktails and danced on a light-up floor upstairs at the bar. Occasionally, a song from another artist's discography played, but the sounds of Spears' catalog were the nonstop score for the entire weekend.
Late in the night, Spears' fans speculated that she would be making a surprise drive-by appearance.
At around 11 PM, a rumor broke out among the crowd of "Free Britney" supporters that their celebrity idol would drive by the bar and stop to thank her fans. The theory was so persistent that dozens of Spears fans lined up and down the street outside The Naughty Pig, where a security guard teased that he didn't work the venue and wouldn't answer whether he knew anything about Spears making an appearance.
An hour passed and Spears never showed, but the rumor's dissolution didn't stop the party from migrating to other locations for an all-night rager.
While Spears didn't make an in-person appearance to surprise her fans, she did post about them on social media.
Spears hasn't addressed her supporters in real life yet, but she did post about them on Instagram in the wake of her release. Spears shared footage taken of the crowd outside the rally after confetti cannons went off and cheering began.
"Good God I love my fans so much it's crazy," Spears wrote. "I think I'm gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever ... praise the Lord ... can I get an Amen."
At Beaches, a 2-story gay club in West Hollywood, Spears supporters gathered again over mimosas and Cuban-inspired brunch.
Despite proclamations from Spears fans that Saturday morning brought a harsh hangover from the night before, the same crowd gathered again at noon at another bar just a few blocks up for a "Free Britney" celebratory drag brunch.
Activists who spearheaded the "Free Britney" movement were recognized.
The nonprofit Disability Rights California collected funds from the crowd that assembled at Beaches, which they said would go toward marginalized, disabled individuals. Representatives of the organization as well as the faces of the "Free Britney" movement gave speeches about the potential of grassroots activism.
"For thirteen years, Britney Spears was begging to be let out of her conservatorship," Sandt told Insider. "Nothing happened until public pressure and the court of public opinion started to persecute the people who were actively harming Britney."
Leaders in the "Free Britney" movement's LA headquarters praised the crowd at Beaches for fighting for Spears' cause before anyone else reported on abuses in the conservatorship system.
"At the end of the day, there are multiple huge corporations that benefited from Britney losing her rights," Sandt said. "We have to mobilize on social media because we are the media."
Local drag performers lip-synced and danced to Spears' hits.
A slate of four local drag queens — one of whom wasn't local, but had traveled from Nevada to be there — danced along to some of Spears' music to entertain the crowd of her supporters.
Beaches servers exchanged money for crisp dollar bills that patrons used to tip performers.
Some of the pro-Spears YouTube creators who had attended the rally also went along for the afterparty circuit. One of them was Sloan, who doesn't disclose his real name online, although it is known to Insider.
Sloan has more than 540,000 subscribers, and his YouTube drama coverage ranges from former Nickelodeon child stars to YouTube family channels to celebrities like Spears. The day of the rally, Sloan told Insider that he had prepared a 20-minute YouTube video in advance to publish right as Spears' conservatorship ended.
For YouTubers like Sloan, the "Free Britney" after-party circuit was an opportunity to work as well as network.
In another video he posted a few days later, Sloan estimated that 70 fans had come up to talk to him at Friday's rally.
"They were saying they were there because of me or that they learned about the movement because of me," he said. "I don't want to take credit for anything because it's a collective movement, I've learned from other people, and this has just been my way of contributing to the movement."
Sloan told Insider that he makes a full-time living from YouTube, and that he can afford to spend his time traveling around the US rather than have a permanent living space. He stayed in Los Angeles for a few weeks and met up with other online creators for collaborations and photo ops.
Spears' advocates continued to talk about what's next for the movement and her future following the end of her conservatorship.
As the weekend came to a close and "Free Britney" supporters parted ways to return home, go to work, or explore what else LA had to offer, the momentum from Spears' newly acquired freedom carried over to social media.
In a video titled "Britney Spears Is Out For Revenge," Sloan assured his audience that Spears is "out for blood."
"She's calling out everyone who did her dirty these past thirteen years and it's time for them to pay up," Sloan said. "The 'Free Britney' movement may be over but now it's time for justice for Britney."
Sloan cited an Instagram post Spears captioned "it blows my mind every day I wake up how my family and the conservatorship were able to do what they did to me."
Spears' lawyer, Rosengart, also told reporters outside the courthouse on Friday, November 12 that he had issues subpoenas to Tri Star, Britney's business management for part of her conservatorship.
"Free Britney" activist Leanne Simmons told Insider that the movement doesn't end with Spears' freedom.
"This is bigger than Britney. It's not just about Britney," she said. "It's about disability rights and women's rights."
Read the original article on Insider