SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Chosing a more subdued exit, Michael Jackson (search) flashed the peace sign, waved and blew kisses to hundreds of fans as he left the courthouse Friday.
About 300 people stood chanting, cheering and yelling outside — hoisting signs, hanging banners and sticking their noses through a chain-link fence installed as a crowd-control barrier.
City officials put up the fence to avoid a repeat of the pop star's Jan. 16 court appearance when Jackson, with his own photographer in tow, greeted bailiffs and onlookers, danced atop an SUV and was swarmed by fans as he tried to leave.
"I would like to thank the fans around the world for your love, your support from every corner of the earth," Jackson said before getting into a black GMC Yukon XL and rolling down the window to blow kisses, flash victory signs and thrust his thumb into the air. A police motorcycle escort led the SUV away.
Jackson, 45, made the decision to tone down his activities at this hearing, spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said.
"His spirits are up. He was glad to see his family here. His fans were here and a number of other friends and he was glad to see them," she said.
Jackson, who had been scolded by the judge for showing up late to his last hearing, arrived 40 minutes early Friday. On his way into the courthouse, the singer seemed subdued, waving only slightly in front of cameras.
"They probably told him not to turn around," said Paul Sakajian, a 33-year-old fan from Las Vegas. "When he sees his fans, he becomes our fan."
Sakajian wore a black sweatshirt, emblazoned with pictures of Jackson and the words "Michael, I know you're innocent." A white ribbon and heart were pinned to his shirt.
His reason for waking before dawn to get a glimpse of Jackson: "It's his charisma. He has this hold on us that I don't think any other artist has."
Hours before Jackson was due in court, fans were jockeying for position to get one of the 60 courtroom entry tickets, given first-come, first-served. Some waved handmade signs toward the throng of television cameras.
In Los Angeles, about 75 fans gathered at 4:30 a.m. to board a chartered bus to Santa Maria. The crowd held up signs reading "Innocent, I support Michael Jackson" and "Caravan for Justice." Others chanted: "What time is it? Jackson time!"
"I'm showing my grandsons there is a way to protest, there is a way to show your love, a way to show your support and you don't have to do it and be obnoxious about it," Cathy Youngblood said. "You can do it in a civil manner and get your point across."