President Emmanuel Macron broke his silence Monday on the exceptional protests shaking France and his presidency, promising broad tax relief for struggling workers and pensioners—and acknowledging his own responsibility in fueling the nation's anger. Speaking with a soft voice and gentle tone, Macron pleaded during a brief televised address for a return to calm after almost four weeks of protests that started in neglected provinces to oppose fuel tax increases and progressed to rioting in Paris. "We are at a historic moment for our country," the French leader said from the capital's presidential Elysee Palace. "We will not resume the normal course of our lives" after all that has happened, he said, per the AP.
Protesters spent days demanding that Macron speak publicly about their concerns, but it's unclear whether he's quelled dissatisfaction. Some protest representatives have said more demonstrations will be held Saturday. Macron declared an "economic and social state of emergency," ordering the government and parliament to take immediate steps to change tax rules and other policies that hit the wallets of working class French people. He responded to several of the protesters' demands, promising measures including a minimum wage increase, an end to taxes on overtime pay, tax-free worker bonuses, and an end to tax on small pensions. While admitting his own role in the lead-up to protests, Macron was careful to denounce the continued violence. (Some 135 were hurt in weekend protests.)