Photo/IllutrationParticipants at a gathering in Naha on Aug. 12 hold up signs saying, "No to a Henoko military base." (Jun Kaneko)

NAHA--A massive sea of protesters gathered here on Aug. 12 to voice their opposition against the ongoing move of a large U.S. Marine base and the resumption of flights of the problem-prone Osprey aircraft.

According to organizers, about 45,000 people assembled at Onoyama track stadium to oppose the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan in central Okinawa Prefecture to the Henoko district of Nago, also in Okinawa.

Those speaking at the gathering also blasted the Japanese government for quickly giving its approval for the resumption of Osprey flights, even after a recent deadly accident involving a U.S. Marines Osprey in Australia.

"With (the Japanese government) quickly backtracking after being told (Osprey flights) were necessary for proper operations, we have to conclude that 'Japanese independence is nothing but a myth,' " said Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga.

He added that Okinawan resolve was unchanged regarding retracting the deployment of the tilt-rotor aircraft, opposition to the Henoko move and the closing of the Futenma base.

The gathering was organized by a number of opposition parties and citizens groups to show their support for Onaga following the filing of a lawsuit in late July by the Okinawa prefectural government seeking an injunction on embankment work at Henoko that the central government began in April.

Another speaker at the gathering was Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who is planning to run for re-election in February.

"We will not allow the building of a new base in Henoko, either on the ocean or land," Inamine said. "Nago is at the heart of this issue so it must do its best to fight the move."

At the conclusion of the event, participants held up signs proclaiming, "We will never give up."

A statement was approved that declared full support of Onaga, and a special resolution was also approved criticizing the Japanese and U.S. governments for not halting Osprey flights.

The last time such a large gathering was held in Okinawa was in June 2016 when organizers said 65,000 people assembled to protest the killing of a woman in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, by an American who worked for the U.S. military and was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Some parties in Okinawa, such as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, were not invited to the latest gathering because it has expressed support for the Henoko move.