LOS ANGELES — #FreeBritney activists erupted in cheers Wednesday afternoon after a judge decided to suspend Britney Spears' father from the conservatorship that fans believe has effectively imprisoned the pop singer for more than a decade.
Spears fans who rallied outside Los Angeles County Superior Court cried and hugged, hollering with equal parts joy and relief. "You guys did it," a pro-Spears activist could be heard saying amid scores of people in the crowd.
Judge Brenda Penny's decision to suspend Spears' father, James "Jamie" Spears, as her conservator represented both an emotional climax and legal vindication for the grassroots activists who have worked to draw national attention to the case.
Claudette Lalí Anaya, who said she worked as Spears' stylist in the late 1990s, broke down crying after the news broke.
"It's a miracle," she said. "It's what she deserves. Her light will shine more brightly now."
Throughout the afternoon, demonstrators outside the courthouse chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the conservatorship has got to go!" "What do we want? Free Britney!" Some could be heard singing hits like "Baby One More Time" and "Toxic."
In the hours before Penny made her decision, advocates outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse stood on a stage at the entrance and shared stories about people who have struggled under conservatorships, such as the former "Star Trek" actor Nichelle Nichols.
Rio Hamilton, who said his mother was under a conservatorship in New Mexico, credited the #FreeBritney movement with bringing wider attention to some of the issues at the heart of the debate over legal guardianships.
"They're literally taking away equity, property, anything they can from people who are vulnerable," Hamilton said.
The jubilation that spread through the crowd was also shadowed by awareness that their fight is not over. Spears will continue to live under the conservatorship, at least for the time being.
The court named a California accountant, John Zabel, as temporary conservator of her finances.
"I feel really relieved for Britney, but of course the ordeal is not over yet," said Hygin Shim, one of the demonstrators.
Corinne Levy and her 18-year-old brother, Jonathan, took off work along with two friends Wednesday to join the demonstrations, each toting pro-Spears signs.
Corinne Levy, who grew up listening to Spears' music, said her early impressions of the pop superstar were shaped by the frenzied paparazzi coverage of the early 2000s.
"I thought she was crazy," Levy said, but "looking back at it now, I just feel disgusted. I want revenge for her."
Alicia Victoria Lozano reported from Los Angeles and Daniel Arkin reported from New York.