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Rio de Janeiro is home to over one-thousand favelas (slums), the majority of which are controlled by armed drug traffickers engaged in a long-standing war with police. This article shows how state legitimacy is challenged by the everyday reality of dual power, postcolonial legacies of inequality and marginalization, and a porous culture of law. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in one of the largest favelas in the city, I argue that police actions revolve around the enactment of violent spectacle, performed by the Elite Special Forces, BOPE. The use of performative violence, however, rather than shoring up state control at the margins of city life, works instead to undermine police (and state) authority.