On the morning of Sept. 9, 1924, a brief-but-furious, hand-to-hand fight broke out at Hanapepe, between as many as 200 striking Visayan sugar workers and 40 policemen that left 16 strikers killed and nine wounded, with four policemen also killed and two wounded.
Called the “Hanapepe Massacre,” it was the bloodiest confrontation in all of Hawai‘i’s labor history.
As a result, 130 strikers and their leaders were arrested and tried, and of these 56 were found guilty of riot and imprisoned, with many later being deported to the Philippines.
In 1980, 78-year-old Ignacia Lagmay, a witness to the fighting, vividly recalled the fear that gripped her as she hid inside her small Hanapepe home with her husband, a striker who did not participate in the fighting, and her 3-month-old child, while gunfire and fighting erupted outside.
“The time I stay inside the house, I can hear the guns: Pak! Pak! Pak! Pak! And oh, somebody only call the husband. That I can hear clear. Died in the wife’s arms. The bullet go inside the stomach. I listen to what the people screaming — somebody died, how many died. I so scared.”
Another witness, a reluctant striker named Mauro Plateros, remembered that on the night before the fighting, he was talking with a fellow striker who told him, “Oh, if anything happen, I’ll just run away.”
“But he was killed on that day,” said Plateros.
During the fighting, Plateros had fled into the nearby Brodie’s banana patch with other strikers and was stopped by a policeman who asked where he was going. “I running away,” he replied. “Go ahead,” the policeman said.
Plateros later surrendered voluntarily and was acquitted of riot charges.
Plateros’ wife at the time, Isabel Ganade, said she was on the front porch of the Japanese Language School when the shooting commenced and ducked inside as bullets splintered the wooden walls around her.
“I was really scared because it was really war,” she said.
She then ran to the neighboring Korean Tailor Shop and hid there all day.