The political process is often conceived of as a bargaining process whereby an assortment of goals and values are maximized relative to the amount of power that can be marshaled on their behalf. However, competition within this process is not often free as it is many times manipulated in the interest of certain groups who, due to particular qualities, are able to maximize their ends at the expense of other, less fortunate groups. Occasionally these disadvantaged groups become dissatisfied with their subordinate position and seek to tilt the political process in such a way so as to create a climate which is more open to their demands. Often they accomplish this objective by introducing new methods of political action which enhance their ability to compete. Frequently, however, these new methods are quite violent in nature.
These groups see violence not as the repudiation of the political process but rather as an indication that their involvement in the bargaining related to it is being intensified and carried on by other means. Consequently, the introduction of violence is regarded by some as an indication that the values at stake are so fundamental that the existing political process is no longer adequate. Actually the central issue of their struggle is viewed by a disadvantaged group as involving no less than the opportunity for them to survive as a recognizable political element.
Occasionally this widened political struggle assumes an especially intense form and the urban environment, in which it is most frequently conducted, becomes the arena for a series of terrorist acts. Cities are the setting for many of these struggles because they embody characteristics which facilitate political organization and cast into sharp contrast positions of disparate power. Consequently, metropolitan areas become the scene of violence whenever a disadvantaged group of people seek to aggrandize themselves by altering the present allocation of power through the use of force or other extralegal means. Almost without exception, however, these attempts have ended in failure when the power of the urban police force was brought to bear.
While it is true that most urban political violence is caused by crowds running amuck, some of it is a highly organized material type of terror which is directed against railway bridges, power lines, or public buildings. Personal terror is also frequently employed by urban insurgents. This brand of terror involves the assassination of their opponents; such people as police chiefs, members of the government, popular figures, and businessmen.