BERLIN — Hundreds of thousands of Germans took to the streets Saturday, in protest of pending trade deals with the United States and Canada.
The deals in question are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and the European Union and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) for the Canadian-EU relationship. Neither free trade agreement has been ratified yet, but popular outcry has been growing for the last few years.
The demonstrations took place in seven cities throughout Germany: Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart. Organizers told CNBC that the official estimate is 320,000 demonstrators across Germany.
In Berlin, where discussions of trade policy are frequently overheard in cafes and most available surfaces are plastered in posters and stickers against the deals, the largest demonstration of the day took place with about 70,000 attendees, according to the organizers.
Earlier, local reports had indicated there could be as many as 80,000 in the German capital, but a heavy downpour close to the start time may have depressed turnout.
A broad coalition of organizations helped plan the event, but the stated rationale for opposing the agreements centers on the belief that such deals "primarily serve the interests of powerful economic interest groups, and thus only cement the imbalance between the common good and economic interests," according to one organization.
Yet while the organizers talk of seeking to maintain the sanctity of democracy and rule of law, critics of the movement charge that its ranks thrive at least as much on anti-Americanism as any coherent political or economic philosophy.