Elias Canetti in his memoir recalls an event as of July 15, 1927 that even many years afterwards was clearly photographed on his brain. At that time, workers were shot in Burgenland, Austria, but the murderers were acquitted. That caused an uproar in Vienna.

On that day, Canetti, although being a mere bystander, felt the disturbing experience of merging into the crowd and being completely absorbed in it. He saw people getting excited and interrupted the flow of the crowd for a moment to make a big gesture and then to immediately disappear again.

[Am Hof, Vienna, Austria, with open” by Library of Congress/ CC0 1.0

There was some rhythm in the air, a “wicked music”. Canetti perceived everything in a state of ecstasy while the police cracked down and shot at the crowd. People died. The crowd fled into side streets, then reappeared and formed again in masses.

The masses were driven away, only to swell out of the side streets again. Inexorable boos rang out, triggered volleys from the police, followed by new boos. People shouted something to each other, it sounded relieved, then came the beacon of the burning Palace of Justice.

The sky glowed red and there was a smell of burnt paper from thousands and thousands of files. The fire held the crowd together, driven out by the volleys of the police and pouring towards the fire again and again – “a single, monstrous wave that swept over the city.”

If there was anything outstanding that inflamed the crowd, it was the Palace of Justice that was set ablaze. The volleys of the police didn’t whip the people apart, they whipped them together.

This may explain why the protests in Iran are not going away anytime soon.

(Elias Canetti, 1982, The Torch in the Ear: Memoir [Die Fackel im Ohr: Lebensgeschichte], 1921-1931, Frankfurt/ Main: Fischer, pp. 230-7.)