Okinawans gather for a rally in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, on May 19, the final day of a three-day Peace March. (Masaru Komiyaji)

GINOWAN, Okinawa Prefecture--May 19 marked the last day of a prefecture-wide three-day Peace March to protest land reclamation work in the Henoko district of Nago, building on opposition following a referendum on the issue in February and a by-election in April.

Typical angry scenes of protesters pumping their fists in the air were intended to send a message to Tokyo about continuing bitter sentiment to the project to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan.

An estimated 2,000 people gathered in the Ginowan seaside park. The annual Peace March marked the anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japanese sovereignty in 1972.

Their anger reflects a massive "No" in a prefecture-wide referendum held in February to central government moves to relocate the Futenma facility to Henoko, as well as the election of an anti-base candidate in a Lower House by-election in the Okinawa No. 3 district, which encompasses Nago, in April.

Okinawans last year elected a fierce base opponent as governor.

Okinawa is host to about 70 percent of all U.S. military facilities in Japan.

Demonstrators questioned the manner in which the central government is forcing the land reclamation project on Okinawa when it is clear there is widespread opposition to the work.

As for land reclamation work, the dumping of dirt and sand started last December.

The protesters accused central government authorities of "denying the Constitution and making light of democracy."

A declaration adopted at the rally expressed strong opposition to moves to expand the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

This year, the protesters also noted the forward deployment of Gound Self-Defense Force personnel to outlying Yonagunijima and Miyakojima islands to bolster the nation's defense.

“It really feels like a return to the Battle of Okinawa fought 74 years ago when we were targeted and made huge sacrifices,” the declaration said.