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Residents protest removal of kneeling soldier statue from King Veteran’s Memorial

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KING, N.C. -- A community in King protested on Sunday the decision to remove a statue of a kneeling soldier at the veteran’s memorial in King.

Several residents gathered at the King Veteran’s Memorial, replacing the statue themselves.

King officials took down all religious symbols from the site last week as part of a settlement over a lawsuit against the town.

Steven Hewett claimed the symbols violated his first amendment rights. The decision was made at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

The King council also repealed a 2010 law establishing a flag lottery that allowed flags of any religious denomination to be flown at the memorial.

The memorial is on city-owned land but was paid for through donations collected by citizens of King.

“That cross, was not like the cross on that flag. It didn't mean that this is a Catholic, this is a Protestant, this is a Jew, or even a Muslim,” said one man who attended the protest, referring to the removed symbol. “That is a sign and a symbol that here, lies a hero.”

City leaders said a lawsuit would jeopardize the city's $1 million insurance policy. They said fighting the lawsuit would cost taxpayers about $2 million.