Macron accuses 'agitators' of wanting to 'promote insurrection'
French president Emmanuel Macron has hardened his rhetoric about the continuing protests that are roiling France for the thirteenth straight week.
After the first cabinet meeting of the year, Macron apologized to the French people, saying through a spokesman, "Maybe we have made too many concessions to conservatism, we'll have to change that."
Since Macron swept to power in May 2017 promising to transform France and do away with a political class he blamed for the country's malaise, he has seen his popularity slide to a record low as discontent with his style and policies grew.
Facing the sternest challenge of his 20-month tenure, Macron has vowed to press on with other reform pledges, such as stricter rules for unemployment benefit and overhauling the civil service.
One of the faces of the leaderless yellow vest movement, Eric Drouet, was detained on Wednesday for organizing an undeclared protest, before being released on Thursday. Macron's critics have called the tougher response a mistake likely to inflame the situation.
The protests have squeezed many businesses, including retailers and hotels that closed their doors or suffered cancellations in early December at the height of the violence.
French services activity retreated at the fastest pace in more than four years last month, a survey showed on Friday.
Absolutely, Macron has made a mistake. From a high of 40,000 protesters in December, the number has dropped to around 12,000. But Macron's blast at the protesters will not go over well with people who just might like the idea of "concessions to conservatism."
"Since these announcements, the yellow vest movement, for those who continue to protest, has become the thing of agitators who promote insurrection to topple the government," [government spokesman Benjamin] Griveaux told reporters.
"We must take the desire of the French for change to its fullest because it is this desire which brought us to power," he said. "Maybe we have made too many concessions to conservatism, we'll have to change that."
About 75% of the French people are unhappy with Macron's performance in office, giving him very little leverage with protesters and weakening him with his own government. Since he can't concede much more, and Macron insulted people by downplaying their grievances, we can expect the protests to start growing again.