An unusual case of a jewelry shop burglary in Nice, France has created some hot polemic and has become a viral topic in the French social media. A Facebook page created in this context has for example got more than one million likes!

Seldom had France been so divided about a piece of news, which (unfortunately) is quite common. Have a look at the reasons behind it.

1. The Facts

On Wednesday, 11th September, 2 youngsters entered a jewelry shop, threatened the owner with a firearm forcing him to open the safe and after taking possession of its content, tried to escape on their scooter. 

This is when the news became unusual. The shop owner seized his gun and shot, 3-4 times in the direction of the burglars. The one at the back of the scooter was hit and died quite quickly after that.

Legally, the questions are mainly: Was this legitimate defense? Did the owner aim at the burglars? Was his intention to kill one of them?

But, it seems that the society wants to ask another question: Who was the victim and who was the wrongdoer(s)?

2. Who Was the Victim?

A bit after the events, many newpapers took the defense of the youngster killed by the jeweler. They insisted on his difficult childhood, the unforgiving environment where he grew up, drew a portrait of his family, friends and pregnant girlfriend who all loved this teenager.

Also, it shouldn't be necessary to remind people about the fact that nobody has the right to kill, that it was probably not a legitimate defense as this happened when the two wrong-doers were on their way out, etc...

3. Social Media

But many people disagreed with this side of the story and social media helped them express their opinion.

 A facebook page was quickly "erected" in the defense of the jeweler. 

Jeweler Support Facebook PageCredit: Facebook

 You can read "1 Million de soutiens pour le bijoutier de Nice" or, in English "1 Million Support [likes in support] to the Jeweler from Nice".

This page has now more than 1.6 million likes. In comparison, François Hollande, the current president, has less than 500 000 likes and previous president Sarkozy has a bit less than 900 000.

Some people claimed these likes were fake but many further analysis showed that most of them are likely to be real.

4. Why So Much Support?

How come a person who killed another gets so much support? Is France in favor for retaliation? Should we start a society based on the "an-eye-for-an-eye" principle and self-justice?

I don't think this is the case but it is important to understand the feeling that the working class has about the situation. They work hard to get a good education, they then have to fight to get a job and even then, some barely get enough money for a decent life.

When you compare this with some delinquents who do not bother with education, do not look for a job and instead have it easy every day and "just" have to steal from honest people when money is missing, you then have a better understanding of the context of the polemic.

You also have to know that many people's dream is to build their own business, or set up their own shop, and the last thing they want is this dream becoming a nightmare because of repetitive robberies. This jewelry shop had already been robbed in 2012.

Finally, some people feel the impunity linked to such acts is too high. Culprits are seldom caught and, when they are, their lawyer will generally shorten the sentence to a minimum, evoquing the difficult childhood in a bad environment...

People may see the jeweler as a modern Batman, and see his act as a symbol of the justice they had been waiting for a long time. This reminds a bit of the success of videos where people confront the person who stole their bike, iphone, or other commonly stolen object. It isn't the same severity as an armed robbery and the loss of the life of the wrongdoer but there are several similar elements: feeling of impunity around the stealing, people fed up with getting their item stolen and the person doing something about it is seen as a hero.

5. The Future?

It is hard to imagine this single event wreaking havoc in the current justice system. It is also hard to imagine the jeweler released as at the end of the day, his act was a criminal one (he killed someone).

But what is sure is that this case created a lot of buzz and started an important polemic about how we understand the concept of justice.