Heavy machinery lifted a statue of Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park from its stone base around 8 a.m.
A crowd that gathered to watch clapped and cheered.
Crews later Saturday will remove the statues of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from Court Square Park. Both will be placed in storage. The stone bases will be left in place and removed at a later date.
“(Removing the statues) is one small 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 told reporters shortly before the Lee statue was lifted.
“It is my hope that we stop taking these steps in 100-year increments and increase the frequency (of) bold daily action and critical examination of accurate history, even when it denounces whiteness as supreme,” she said.
The city said it is looking for a new home for the statues at a museum, military battlefield or historical society. The city has received 10 expressions of interest — six from out of state and four in state, the news release said.
The Charlottesville City Council voted June 7 to remove the statues following a court battle of more than three years.
The council first voted in February 2017 to remove the statues, a decision that sparked the anger of Virginians with Confederate roots and White nationalist groups.
The “Unite the Right” rallies of August 11-12, 2017, brought thousands of protesters to Charlottesville, many bearing Confederate and neo-Nazi symbolism, to protest the removal of the statues.
CNN’s Chris Boyette and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.