(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Two bronze Confederate statues at the center of yearslong debate in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be removed this weekend, officials announced.
The city will remove statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson on Saturday.
The removal comes more than five years after the first effort to remove the Lee statue. A year later, the monument became a gathering point for white supremacists who decried the proposal at the "Unite the Right" rally in August 2017, which led to rioting and left one woman dead.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker shared a speech before the removal, praising the move.
“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” she said.
White House spokesperson Emilie Simons tweeted that President Joe Biden also agreed with the removal of the statues.
"There is a difference between reminders and remembrances of history," she wrote. "The President believes that monuments to Confederate leaders belong in museums, not in public places, and welcomes the removal of the statues today."
Only the statues themselves were removed Saturday; the stone bases will be left in place temporarily and removed at a later date.
The city also removed a statue depicting Sacagawea with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The statue was criticized for showing Lewis and Clark standing proudly while Sacagawea cowered behind them. The city council voted 5-0 to remove the statue on Saturday, saying the speed with which the Confederate statues were removed opened the possibility for the Lewis and Clark statue to also be taken down.
The council met with Native American delegations in November 2019, which asked for the statue to be removed.
Designated public viewing areas for the removal of the Confederate statues were set up in Market Street Park and Court Square Park, where the statues are located, officials said in a news release.
Preparations commenced Friday around Market Street Park with officials setting up protective fencing and posting notices in the area.
The removal comes following a resolution passed by the Charlottesville City Council on June 7, which authorized the city manager to remove the statues for placement in storage.
Lawsuits by the statues' supporters were filed and halted the removals since the original city council vote in 2017 to remove them. However, in April the Virginia Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that contended state law protected the monuments.
The city council has the sole authority to determine the final disposition of the statues, officials said in the news release.
Both statues will be stored in a secure location on city property until a final decision on their fate is made.
The city has solicited museums, government branches and the military to see if they have interest in the statues. So far, the Charlottesville city manager has received 10 responses -- six from out of state and four from in state and they're all under review.