Demonstrators and organizers posed different theories about what had changed since then. Some pointed to disillusionment about Obama's interest in economic liberalism, and others suggested an increased awareness about the political strength of major corporations and rising wealth inequality. Germany — in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and Frankfurt — had been one of the major sites of the Occupy movement in 2011.
Either way, the real enemies at Saturday's protests were not the U.S., Obama or even specific measures in TTIP and CETA. Instead, demonstrators were calling on their leaders to protect them from the threats of run-away capitalism, corporate avarice and an ultra-wealthy class that they say is above the law.
Homemade signs admonished those seeking "profits," and images of the U.S. dollar bill and Scrooge McDuck were stand-ins for greed and inequality. Nearly every demonstrator queried by CNBC pointed immediately to concerns about "big companies" garnering too much power and wealth if the trade deals were enacted.
"You cannot just say all Americans are bad, but I can understand when people hate big companies," Jonas, a 26-year-old Berlin student, said. Many like-minded demonstrators acknowledged they have friends and relatives who are employed by major multinational companies like Volkswagen, but they insisted that the benefits of a trade deal would go disproportionately to executives.
Many politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, Jonas argued, were really under the thumb of those large companies. "I think they get a lot of money from companies," he said when asked why he did not believe U.S. and German promises of well-distributed economic benefits from trade deals.
And it's that distribution that was ultimately the key point for many of Saturday's demonstrators. In the wake of Occupy and the best-selling "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" from French economist Thomas Piketty in 2013, many Germans are actively grappling with the political philosophy of growth.
Saturday's rallies, organizers said, were attempting to demonstrate a show of force in that debate: Many citizens do not automatically want their nation's economy to expand (it's an almost universally-accepted idea in modern economics that expanded trade will provide net economic expansion to both countries) but instead they care how those benefits are distributed.
"What's for sure [with trade deals] is there will be losers, as there have been losers from NAFTA and other trade deals," Maritta Strasser — a lead trade campaigner for the nongovernmental organization Campact, and a speaker at Saturday's reportedly 50,000-person rally in Frankfurt — told CNBC last month. "Even if, overall, the benefits would be better than the losses – how do we compensate them?"
The protests were timed to coincide with a Monday meeting of Germany's Social Democrats, who were expected to vote on whether to support CETA. German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel leads that party, and his group's decision could ultimately affect the future of all EU trade policy because of Germany's importance in the union.
For more about the specific arguments against TTIP and CETA, click here.
And see this analysis for the larger debate about free trade agreements.