Workers haul away the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE
July 10 (UPI) -- Confederate statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson at the center of 2017 protests turned deadly were removed Saturday from city parks in Charlottesville, Va.
The bronze statues at the center of a "Unite the Right" rally on Aug. 12, 2017, that left Heather Heyer, 32, dead after James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, were removed from public property as reporters watched and observers cheered.
Cheers rang out as the Lee statue was lifted from its pedestal in Market Street Park shortly after 8 a.m., secured onto a large flatbed and driven away from the park a half hour later.
Crews later repeated the removal process with the Jackson statue in Court Square Park, and crowd similarly cheered as it was removed from its pedestal shortly before 10 a.m.
"(Removing the statues) is one step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with its sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gains," Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said shortly before the Lee statue was removed, CNN reported.
The statues will be placed in storage and the stone base pedestals were left in place to be removed at a later date.
"During the past month, the city has solicited for expressions of interest from any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring the statues, or either of them, for relocation and placement," the city said in a statement Friday.
The Charlottesville City Council voted on June 7 to remove the statues after a court battle that dragged out more than three years.
The white supremacist rally in which Heyer was killed and 19 others injured occurred after the council first voted to remove the statues in February 2017.
A circuit judge ruled shortly after the rally that state law barred the statutes' removal, according to court documents.
Supreme Court of Virginia, however, overturned that decision in April 2021, ruling that the state law, which was enacted in 1997, "had no retroactive applicability."