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Gilbert protests lead to punches and arrests, investigation ongoing

Posted at 10:37 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 07:19:22-04

GILBERT, AZ — The Gilbert Police Department is looking into more charges after "Black Lives Matter" and "Back the Blue" protests clashed and turned violent last week.

Three arrests were made, but police and protesters believe there may be more victims and assault suspects especially because there were no officers present when the violence initially erupted.

"I hope the police are in the vicinity," said Liz Harris while streaming across the street on Facebook Thursday. "We're supposed to keep our distance and I’m a little bit concerned."

That concern was warranted because the tension culminated in assault.

"There is always a fringe group, and apparently it was that fringe group that did cross the street," said Harris, who is running to be an Arizona State Representative. "Police were there, they just weren’t there perhaps fast enough. And that allowed things to escalate."

"They were kind of just shoving each other around and having confrontations. And then someone pulled out a baseball bat," said a woman named Amber, who asked ABC15 not to use her last name.

Gilbert police confirmed to ABC15 that three people were arrested Thursday.

One was quickly released on criminal damage charges when the victim did not want to press charges in connection to a flag being ripped. Another was Phillip Hawkins, who was arrested for disorderly conduct. The third was Michael Clabaugh, a Valley man who is seen on camera wearing weighted-knuckle gloves and punching a male and female protester in the face who posed no immediate threat.

"My boyfriend stepped in to try and de-escalate and he punched him several times. I got in between them trying to get him to stop and he punched me in the head two times," said Amber.

As Amber was crying, Clabaugh was bragging about the assault. "How'd that feel by the way?" he said, taunting the other group minutes later.

"I talked to probably four different Gilbert police officers at the scene. They wouldn’t arrest him. They said they were only there for crowd control," said Amber.

Eventually, Clabaugh was arrested, but only after Amber and her boyfriend called the non-emergency line, went to the Gilbert police station and physically showed officers their injuries and video evidence.

Clabaugh was arrested on two counts of assault but never booked into Maricopa County Sheriff's Office jail in downtown Phoenix. "They released him within two hours," said Amber.

Protesters say not everyone was held responsible. Another protester, named Jess, filed a police report less than 48 hours later after she says she was assaulted by multiple people.

"I did file a police report. I sent photos of the man who put me in the headlock," said Jess. "I was getting punched by different random men as I was trying to break things up... I think they didn’t even care who they were hitting, they were just swinging punches."

It is unclear if any protesters on the anti-BLM side filed any police reports or reported injuries after the fact. Both sides can be seen throwing punches, though no one appears to be injured enough to require an ambulance.

Gilbert police said they were not prepared to release the mugshots of the suspects or the police reports on Monday evening, citing new information that may be added to the report and existing charges.

ABC15 reached out to Clabaugh multiple times Monday - on social media, his personal phone number, and his business line - but we never heard back.