Since the June 23 hearing, Spears has received bipartisan support for ending the conservatorship as lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have spoken out about a need to investigate conservatorship laws.
Cassandra Dumas, a member of Free Britney America, the local organization that put on the Washington rally, said the recently formed group wants to see a congressional hearing about the topic.
“Since this is something that can affect all Americans out there — it doesn’t matter race, creed, nationality — this could happen to you,” Dumas said. “I want to see a senator and a congressional member from every single state to stand up and be counted, because this could be your constituents.”
Wednesday’s rally was organized by Dumas, Erika Gutierrez, Patrick Thomas and Dylan Spence in under a week, planned via Instagram messages and Zoom calls to coincide with Spears’s July 14 hearing.
Attendees carried signs in support of Spears, with language including song lyrics (“Britney’s not a Slave 4 U,” “Not A Girl, Not Yet a Free Woman,” “Keep on Fighting ‘Til the Conservatorship Ends”) and more clear-cut calls to action: “We want a Congressional hearing” and “We want federal oversight.”
Though Spears is a high-profile conservatee, rally attendees Terri and Rick Black say many others across the country are struggling under similar arrangements.
The duo said they established the Center for Estate Administration Reform three years ago after what they said was a lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle to end the guardianship of Terri Black’s father.
When Terri heard Spears was under an allegedly abusive conservatorship, she said she knew it was a grave issue. The two drove from Charlotte to attend the demonstration.
“Britney’s situation, because she is such a celebrity, is shining a light on this national issue,” she said. “Like most people say, sunshine is the best disinfectant. And there’s a lot of sunshine today.”
Rick Black, who also addressed the crowd, said that since establishing their nonprofit organization, they receive two or three calls a day from people seeking help for family members in similar situations.
“What Britney does for the movement is give it a face and a name and a voice,” he said. “How can a 39-year-old, vibrant, successful, mother-of-two entertainer — how can she be in a conservatorship for 13 years?”
Melanie Carlson, 39, wasn’t a fan of Spears’s at first and thought of her as a “corporate poptart.” But Carlson said that in 2007, the same year that Spears was all over the news for shaving her head and attacking a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella, Carlson herself had her first psychotic experience. She saw Spears as a proxy for people experiencing mental health crises as she was.
Instead of a sign, she came to the D.C. rally with an homage of her own: an umbrella decorated with pink and silver glitter. In the center of her umbrella, Carlson had written, “If I survived psychosis in 2007, you can end mental health stigma” — a reference to the popular meme, “If Britney can survive 2007, you can survive today.”
“There’s still a lot of destigmatization to do,” Carlson said. “Everybody has anxiety and depression now, but if you have schizophrenia, people still shun you or assume there’s something fundamentally or morally reprehensible about you.”
Longtime Spears devotees attending the rally voiced support not just for legal changes, but also for the star herself. Waving a large pink flag reading “Free Britney,” 33-year-old Corey Bailey said he’s been a fan of Spears’s since 1998, the year she released her debut single “ … Baby One More Time.” He remembers dancing to her music in his bedroom as “a gay boy trying to figure out life.”
The day before the rally, a Facebook memory popped up in his feed. Three years ago, he had seen Spears perform at MGM National Harbor. He had since heard Spears’s testimony about being forced to go on tour — the very tour on which he had seen her.
“I’m ready for a tour that she wants to do,” he said.
From 2019: The battle of Britney Spears