CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — A judge in Virginia swiftly rebuked a conservative group’s effort Friday to remove a Black state senator from office over her role in a protest that ended with heavy damage to a Confederate monument.

Few expected the petition of 4,600 signatures gathered by members of the Virginia Tea Party to succeed against Sen. Louise Lucas, a longtime Democratic legislator and a key Statehouse power broker. The judge quickly ruled that, under Virginia’s Constitution, only the state Senate can expel one of its members.

“There is a process for that,” Chesapeake Circuit Court Chief Judge John W. Brown said from the bench. “This is not that process.”

The courtroom briefly served as a battleground for the nation’s culture wars over race, history and policing that intensified last year after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.

“Our country was under absolute siege by these angry mobs,” Virginia Tea Party Chair Nelson Velez told The Associated Press before the hearing. “We had an elected official, a state senator orchestrate a riot.”