Ashley Segura and Chelsea Dauwalder hold a #FreeBritney banner during a free Britney rally outside the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY – As a neon pink crowd danced down the stairs of the State Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, similar crowds simultaneously gathered around the world with a singular message: Free Britney.
The glitter-clad rally participants held signs that read “End TOXIC Guardianship” and “If it can happen to him, it can happen to you.” They chanted “Jail Jamie! Free Britney!”
Some of them picked up the lyrics from Britney’s song in the background: âI’ve been Miss American Dream since I was 17.
âIt doesn’t matter if I step on stage or if I run away to the Philippines.
“They will always put pictures of my butt in the magazine.”
Britney fans checked their phones for updates on the Guardianship, and the song’s chorus punctuated their conversations.
âI hope I will start to wreak havoc.
“And end up settling in court.
“Now are you sure you want a piece of me?” “
Shannon Egan, founder of Free Britney Utah and organizer of the rally, stood in front of the crowd and said the Spears case was a violation of human rights, and “in particular a women’s rights issue.”
âNot only am I a fan, but I am a woman,â she said. “If a man got up with an umbrella and shaved his head, I doubt he would have been deprived of his rights.”
Psarah Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Disabled Rights Action Committee, explained how the situation with Britney and Guardianship is all too familiar to people with disabilities, and people largely ignore the circumstances.
“I’m so glad people see this now and realize how bad it is,” she said.
Disabled people placed under guardianship do not have the right to vote or to choose their way of life, underlined Heidi Pomerleau, also of the Action Committee for the Rights of People with Disabilities.
“The people who are under guardianship should be the ones here, but they don’t have the right,” she said, adding that because they can’t speak, the general public is largely ill-informed about the intricacies of the matter. .
Egan said she didn’t even know what a guardianship was until Spears’ situation became known. She and the speakers agreed that Spears fans are heavily involved in this ignorance and stigma, as well as the media.
âWe all liked it. We all clicked. And we all shared,â said songwriter and performer Jacob Berkowitz. “Now we have a chance to turn the tide.”
Trying to support her, her fans have lined the pockets of her captors and read the clickbait stories that destroy her reputation, Gathering speaker Darren Willison said.
“We all owe him an apology. We failed,” he said. “Other celebrities are able to learn and grow from mistakes instead of being punished.”
He challenged the crowd and the media to stop engaging in the celebrity gossip that caused Spears to deteriorate and to respect his decisions.
The #FreeBritney movement arguably started on April 22, 2019, when Spears fans gathered outside West Hollywood City Hall with signs reading “#FreeBritney” and “the truth will set her free.” At first, most people weren’t sure why Spears needed to be released. These fans were digging deep after Spears canceled her Vegas residency and was taken in for a “time for me.”
The theory was that Spears was being controlled and her free will had been taken away from the public eye because she had been placed under the wardship of her father, Jamie Spears. There was evidence Britney Spears had attempted to break out of wardship, but court documents were sealed to the public.
“Britney’s Gram” podcasters Tess Barker and Barbara Gray are credited with starting the movement, examining Spears’ Instagram for signs that she was not doing well and was being censored and controlled. More fans have joined them across the globe, but Spears has never made a public statement confirming the theories, even after the release of the popular and recently Emmy-nominated New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears.”
Then on June 23, Spears made a 24-minute statement in court, largely validating fan theories.
“I really believe this tutelage is abusive,” she said. “Basically this guardianship does me a lot more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I have worked my whole life. I deserve to have the same rights as anyone.”
In her statement, Spears claimed that under guardianship she was not allowed to marry or have a baby. She was told that she could not remove her IUD to try to have another baby.
âI just want my life back,â she said. “It’s been 13 years and that’s enough.”
Several speakers in Salt Lake City on Wednesday called for action from Utah Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney to do something to end abuse of the trusteeship.
Egan said it was the first of many rallies, not just here, but around the world until Britney was released from her tutelage.
These people, largely strangers, from across the state hugged, danced and sang together, united in their love for the pop star and their hope that she could live a peaceful life.
âEveryone can agree that Britney kind of shaped the people we are today. We all have a little piece of Britney,â Willison said. âAnd believe me, you don’t want a piece of us.
Egan has been a fan of Spears from the start, even when it was a bit embarrassing to say you liked her.
When Egan was 22, she traveled to Oregon to see Spears on the Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004. After the concert, she saw that there was an online auction to buy clothes. by Spears. One shirt in particular caught her eye, and she knew she had to have it. He said, “Oopsie, I said the F word.” She paid $ 500 for future possession.
Egan, author and former freelance journalist and United Nations press secretary, knows firsthand what it’s like to be in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and serves as an award-winning advocate and grant-writer. for addiction in the United States. recovery organizations. After Spears began her notorious decline, Egan fell in love with the pop star.
âShe was so desperate. She was never the same, and now we know why,â Egan said. “So many people felt there was something wrong with her situation, but she didn’t say anything because she had no voice.”
âWe come together in love,â Egan said. “I was so angry that this was happening, but there is so much love within the movement. I worked with the Free Britney movement in LA, and they welcomed me with open arms.”
Egan said that when Spears finally spoke up, she and others around the world knew they had to act to support her.
“I know the movement and have been following it for the last few years, but I thought ‘Britney isn’t speaking, so I’m not against it.’ Sharing her voice has given me permission to feel safe standing up for her, âshe said.
“[Britney] represents all of our human rights, especially marginalized groupsâ¦ If someone like her can be exploited in the public eye, what does that mean to the rest of us?
So she decided to create Free Britney Utah. She was not alone in her activism. Around the world, other sections of Free Britney have emerged and organized rallies around the world to end guardianship, raise awareness of abuses of guardianship, and advocate for reform of the inheritance court system.
On June 30, Utah Representative Burgess Owens joined the movement by signing a letter written by fellow Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida, inviting the pop star to testify before the United States Congress.
Paris Hilton, along with many other celebrities known as Democrats, also backed Spears, citing her own abuse allegations against a Utah residential school.
“This widespread support is a testament to Britney as a performer and singer and her music that has impacted so many people, including the LGBTQ community, empowering women and many more,” Egan said. . “What is happening to him is a major human rights violation. And when you hate someone’s human rights and do it so publicly and also so secretly, it hits us all in the gut.”
“It’s not about whether or not you like Britney Spears; it’s about human rights,” she added.