St. Louis police bought Israeli skunk spray after Ferguson uprising

Israeli vehicle spraying the foul-smelling ”skunk” at Palestinian protesters in the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, near the city of Nablus in May.

APA images

Three months after Ferguson erupted in protest over the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) added an Israeli weapon called skunk to its protest-crushing arsenal, arms industry news website Defense One has confirmed

Skunk is a crowd control “malodorant” developed by the Israeli police in collaboration with Odortec, an Israeli company that specializes in scent-based weapons, and tested on Palestinians. 

Released at high pressure from a water cannon, canister or grenade, skunk liquid emits an odor — described as a mix of rotting animal carcass, raw sewage and human excrement — that sticks to walls, clothing, hair and skin for days to weeks and is impossible to wash away without a special soap that is only accessible to police.

Ramallah-based activist and writer Mariam Barghouti once told The Electronic Intifada that “the water lingers on your skin to a point when you want to rip your skin off.”

First deployed by Israeli armed forces in 2008, skunk water has become a fixture in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces routinely douse entire Palestinians neighborhoods in skunk water, deliberately spraying it into private homes, businesses, schools and funerals in what the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem calls “a collective punitive measure” against Palestinian villages that engage in protest against Israel’s colonial violence. 

While Odortec insists skunk spray is non-toxic and even drinkable, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) warns that it “can cause pain and redness if it comes into contact with eyes, irritation if it comes into contact with skin and if swallowed can cause abdominal pain requiring medical treatment.”

Stockpiling skunk

Thus far, the putrid substance has only been deployed against Palestinians. But that won’t be the case for much longer. 

According to a 14 November purchase order obtained by Defense One through Missouri’s open records law, SLMPD purchased fourteen 1.4 liter canisters of Skunk for $428 along with two types of portable skunk delivery canisters that resemble fire extinguishers. Among them were two refillable MK-46 HE canisters for $1,284, which can spray up to 60 ounces of Skunk as far as 40 feet away, and five single use MK-20 Titan canisters totaling $198.90, which can hold up to 20 ounces of skunk with a spray range of 24 feet. 

A second invoice shows that SLMPD modified its order on 12 January, increasing its purchase of special soap decontaminant from one to four gallons, totaling $121.40. The revision is labeled an “EMERGENCY PURCHASE.”

While the invoice does not identify the vendor, it was likely Mistral Security, a subsidiary of Mistral Group, a US company based in Bethesda, Maryland, that deals in the production and sale of military and law enforcement equipment.

Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armament Systems Forum in April, Mistral general manager Stephen Rust announced, “We’ve provided some Skunk for the law enforcement agencies in Ferguson.” 

Rust, who is a former project manager for the US army and Department of Defense, noted that the US military had also expressed interest in purchasing skunk. “We’ve demoed it at Fort Bragg. Why? Because they asked about it,” boasted Rust. 

Mistral markets skunk spray to US police as ideal for controlling crowds and individuals at “border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations and sit-ins.”

It has also been promoted as means for targeting people for arrest. “I’m going to be able to drill [a specific target in a crowd] with a … round while I put him in the dirt. I can mark him with Skunk and he will be easy to locate when the crowd disperses,” said Rust at the armaments expo.

Just how many US police agencies have stockpiled the putrid substance remains unknown. Defense One reported that Mistral sold Skunk to police departments in Bossier City, Louisiana. Mistral did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Electronic Intifada. 

Global pacification industry

US police departments taking repression cues from their Israeli counterparts is not new.

Decades of testing methods and weapons of domination and control on has given rise to a booming “homeland security industry” in Israel that refashions occupation-style repression for use on marginalized populations in other parts of the world. This dystopian arrangement has placed Israel at the core of what Israeli activist Jeff Halper terms the “global pacification industry.” 

While Gaza serves as a testing ground for explosives, the West Bank is Israel’s preferred laboratory for testing and refining crowd control technology.  

Like most Israeli weapons, skunk is advertised by Odortec as having been “field-tested,” meaning Palestinians were used as human test subjects during the development process.

David Ben Harosh, head of the Israeli police’s department for technological development, which partnered with Odortec to develop skunk water, stated in 2008 that skunk water was tested in “monitored exercises” in the Palestinian villages of Bilin and Nilin, which he referred to as an “experiment.” 

Under the cover of “counterterrorism training,” senior commanders from nearly every major US police agency, including departments in Baltimore and St. Louis, have received training from Israel’s occupation regime on junkets that allow Israeli companies like Odortec to market their products directly to US law enforcement executives. 

As the BBC reported in 2008, “The Israeli police force has high hopes of turning skunk into a commercial venture and selling it to law-enforcement agencies overseas.” 

Those hopes have finally been realized, as US police departments search for more effective ways to subdue growing resistance to racist policing, further exposing the collusion taking place among purveyors of racist state violence in the US and Israel. 




Once again we see peripheral techniques of repression, developed for use abroad, finding their way onto the streets of the imperial heartland. American police view the nation's populace in the same way that Israeli soldiers and border police regard Palestinians, and are preparing to employ the same forms of violence. For that reason, chemical weapons of this type should be banned. Their use anywhere in the world is degrading and sadistic, and a government that would treat people in this fashion deserves the epithet "fascist".


I agree 100%. This goes to demonstrate just how low down and treacherous these
"officials" (thugs) are. The police (especially the Israeli variety), have long become far worse than the so-called "enemy" (criminals) they purport to combat. When the policeman is worse than the criminal, it's time to break out the skunk cannons and aim them at City Hall. When the criminal becomes more gentlemanly and innocuous than the cop, it's time for regine change, as the wolf is certainly loose in the hen house. It would be an embarassment to me to allow these creatures to identify themselves as human beings, as this is what I am. Every ounce of me exists in absolute contradiction to such sorry, low-down monsters as would routinely deploy such a horrific weapon against any human being regardless of criminal or other status. My thoughts radiate as the sun against you monsters, not just for a while,
but forever!


Stress to Black America that Israel was White RACIST, APARTHEID, South Africa's ONLY ally, trading weapons, torture techniques, NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY, with them. Today Israel continues Racist APARTHEID with it's wall. Israel enforces laws that are straight out of Nazi Germany such as Palestinians must have different colored ID cards and license plates, JUST like the yellow stars the Jews WAIL about having to wear. Palestinians have to use separate roads, IDENTICAL to Black OR Whites Only drinking faucets.
Israel and South Africa were virtually twinned as military allies for Pretoria helped supply Israel militarily in the immediacy of its 1973 setback and Israel came to support apartheid South Africa at the height of sanctions with weaponry and technology – from naval ships and the conversion of supersonic fighter planes to assistance in building six nuclear bombs and the creation of a thriving arms industry. Israel resembles apartheid South Africa at its zenith – even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents and the aggression against neighbouring states.
Israel PRETENDS to care about African Americans (but look how Israel treats Blacks at home), so they can STEAL the taxdollars that SHOULD have been repairing schools and infrastructure and providing police protection in the Cities. Year after year BILLIONS of African American Tax dollars buy more APARTHEID-suppression for the NATIVE PEOPLE of PALESTINE instead of improving life for the Black American People who earned those dollars.


It sees US police departments are now joining the criminal Israel state in deploying chemical warfare weapons against people in occupied territories. This must surely rate as an internal war crime?
Rust and his collaborators in war crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible in the US.
I have visited Bil'in on a number of occasions and I can vouch for the appalling stench this "product" produces. The use of it is authoritarian and anti-democratic, and is designed to curtail perfectly legal forms of expression. So much for the US First Amendment if these coppers have their way.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.