CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A judge has ruled that the Confederate statues in downtown Charlottesville are officially protected under state law.

Judge Richard Moore ruled that the statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are war memorials and therefore cannot be removed by the city without permission from the state.

All of this stems from a lawsuit against both current and former city councilors who voted to remove those two Confederate statues back in 2017.

On Monday, April 29, one of the men who advocated for the relocation of the statues is weighing in on Judge Moore’s decision.

“I absolutely disagree with it,” Don Gathers, a community activist, said. “It’s painful because all it does is retraumatize the community once again.”

Gathers, who’s the former chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission that advised Charlottesville City Councilors to relocate two downtown Confederate statues, disagrees with Judge Moore's ruling that these depictions of Lee and Jackson are war memorials.

“Just because something is legal doesn't mean it is right or it’s moral, and I’m fearful that what this has done is given the vile evilness that descended upon us in August of ’17 to come back,” Gathers said.

In 2017, City Council voted three to two to remove both statues from downtown, which then prompted the lawsuit.

Judge Moore's ruling means these statues are protected under state law, and the city cannot remove them without permission from the state.

In his letter to attorneys on both sides, the judge says, “I find there is no other reasonable conclusion but that these statues are monuments and memorials to Lee and Jackson. I find this conclusion inescapable."

“Since state law won’t allow us to totally destroy them, I think the best thing to do would be to relocate them,” Gathers said.

Gathers hopes the city will still be able to relocate the statues to a less-central location like the Blue Ribbon Commission advised.

“Move them to one centralized location, preferably McIntire Park, where those who want to still view them and revere them still have an opportunity to do so,” Gathers said. “I just don’t think they have any real need or necessity in the immediate downtown area.”

One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case says he is pleased with Moore's ruling and he believes it’s a major point for his side.

Judge Moore concludes his letter saying this ruling is only one aspect of this case and that it’s far from over or decided.

Both sides are expected back in court on Wednesday, May 1, for a status hearing.