Protesters gathered Sunday in a North Carolina park to register their disappointment in elected officials who ordered the removal of a statue of a praying soldier and a Christian flag as part of a legal settlement with an Afghanistan war veteran.

The city council of King — population about 7,000, a 20-minute drive north of Winston-Salem — voted last week to remove the items as a way to short-circuit legal costs that could've reached $2 million, the city said in a news release. King already has paid more than $50,000 to fight the complaint brought by Steven Hewett, reportedly a retired staff sergeant who served in Afghanistan as a member of the North Carolina Army National Guard, which alleges the city unconstitutionally "promotes Christianity at the Veterans Memorial."

FILE - This undated passport photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago shows Mohammed Hamzah Khan. Khan, 19, a suburban Chicago youth accused of trying to join Islamic State militants is holding talks about a possible plea deal. Agents arrested Khan last year as he tried to board a flight with his younger brother and sister to the Middle East. Khan has denied attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Federal Judge John Tharp told attorneys Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, he'll set a trial date if a deal isn't sealed by the next status hearing on Oct. 1. (U.S. Attorney’s Office via AP, File)
FILE - This undated passport photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago shows Mohammed Hamzah Khan. Khan, 19, a suburban Chicago youth accused of trying to join Islamic State militants is holding talks about a possible plea deal. Agents arrested Khan last year as he tried to board a flight with his younger brother and sister to the Middle East. Khan has denied attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Federal Judge John Tharp told attorneys Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, he'll set a trial date if a deal isn't sealed by the next status hearing on Oct. 1. (U.S. Attorney’s Office via AP, File)

Not included in the release: A $500,001 payout from the city's insurance company to Americans United for Separation of Church and State. All but a dollar is earmarked for Hewett's legal fees stemming from the 2012 complaint, WXII-TV and other local media outlets reported.

The council also ended what it called a "limited forum public policy" as part of the agreement. The policy had been was in place after the town's lawyer advised against flying the Christian flag at the public memorial; instead, the town designated one of the memorial's 11 flagpoles as a faith-based free-speech platform, allowing residents to apply to fly a flag of their choice for a week providing it was one of the city's "approved religious flags," according to the complaint.

The Christian flag, white with a red cross on a blue canton, flew nearly every week, the complaint states, sometimes regardless of resident request: One week in 2011 when a citizen had requested no flag be flown, a group "placed a makeshift Christian flagpole on the Memorial and metal crosses inside its display case," the complaint states.

The statue of a soldier kneeling in front of a cross went up near the memorial, located in a public park, in 2010. The complaint sought removal of the statue and flag as well as the end of "sponsoring prayers and activities at official City events."

A judge ordered the city to stop the prayer sponsorship in a July ruling, the Winston-Salem Journal reported, but said the rest of the suit could move toward trial.