September 1964 (age 56)
|Occupation||Founder of Britain First, public relations for Knights Templar International|
|Relatives||Marion Thomas (sister-in-law)|
James Dowson (born September 1964) is a far-right political activist from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Dowson has been active across the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. He has been described by The Times as "the invisible man of Britain's far right".
After joining and falling out with the Orange Order, Dowson was active as an anti-abortion militant. He joined the far-right British National Party and was in charge of the party's financial affairs. He later helped found and worked as the main source of funding for Britain First from which he resigned in 2014. He was arrested for his participation in the Belfast City Hall flag protests in late-2012 and was also involved in the Protestant Coalition, a party formed by some involved in the protests. Subsequently, he has also been active in the anti-immigrant Knights Templar International and supporting Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.
Dowson was a Calvinist minister before entering politics. He was for a time a member of the Orange Order and was associated with a controversial flute band accused of glorifying Michael Stone during parades. Dowson subsequently fell out with the Orange Order after he was forced to leave the movement, even taking part in protests against it where he denounced the group as being filled with "atheists and boozers".
He came to wider attention for his campaigning against abortion, establishing his own group, the UK Life League, in 1999 after meeting with the leaders of Youth Defence, a militant anti-abortion group active in the Republic of Ireland. He courted controversy by setting up a website that published the personal details of sexual health workers, as well as encouraging supporters to bombard Paul Goggins with messages after the Northern Irish Health Secretary had mooted the possibility of relaxing Northern Ireland's tough anti-abortion laws. When the Marie Stopes Clinic (a family planning clinic denounced by its critics as pro-abortion) opened in Belfast in 2012, Dowson took a leading role in the protests that followed. Dowson has also stated that he worked as part of the United States anti-abortion movement and used much of what he learned there as part of his career in public relations.
It has been reported that during his campaigns Dowson has picked up several criminal convictions, notably for breach of the peace in 1986, possession of a weapon and breach of the peace in 1991, and criminal damage in 1992. Dowson has, however, denied all of these claims apart from the conviction for breach of the peace, which he insisted was for an incident in his youth.
British National Party
Dowson joined the British National Party at an unspecified date and became a leading figure within the group, rising to take charge of the BNP's financial affairs. He has claimed that in this role he raised £4 million for the party. Dowson's financial role with the party began in late 2007.
Having relocated to Ballygowan from Glasgow, Dowson set up a BNP call centre at the Carrowreagh Business Centre in Dundonald on the outskirts of Belfast. Dowson ran the centre under the name of Adlorr-ies.com Ltd, a Leicestershire-based company he had established.
Dowson announced his departure from the BNP in 2010 and stated that he intended to start an anti-Islamic Christian group. According to a report in the Daily Record, Dowson had also faced an allegation that he had groped a female BNP worker.
Dowson's involvement in Britain First, a far-right party led by the former BNP councillor Paul Golding, first came to light in 2012 when the English Defence League repudiated any connections to the group on the basis that Dowson was involved and they considered him financially untrustworthy. In 2014, it was publicly revealed that Dowson was the main source of funding behind the group. According to a report on the Channel 4 news programme, Dowson was the "ideological guru" of the group. In fact, Dowson had been a founder of the group in 2010 but did not take a public role. According to the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate he had been the driving force behind the group's foundation and had used it to attack the BNP leader Nick Griffin, with whom he had had a bitter falling-out.
Dowson announced his resignation from Britain First in July 2014 after the group, under a policy initiated by Golding, started launching "invasions" of mosques. Dowson described the initiative as "provocative and counterproductive" as well as "unacceptable and unchristian". The story about the mosque attacks had been broken by Channel 4 on the same news programme that named Dowson as the group's leading figure.
Dowson became a leading figure in the Belfast City Hall flag protests that broke out in late 2012 after Belfast City Council voted to only fly the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall on seventeen designated days a year rather than all the time as had previously been the practice. In March of the following year, Dowson was arrested for his part in the protests. He was charged with encouraging or assisting offenders and five counts of taking part in an unnotified public procession due to his part in the protests. At a subsequent court appearance Dowson and some of his co-defendants dressed in Islamic-style clothing.
Dowson joined Willie Frazer at the 2013 LaMon Hotel press conference at which the Protestant Coalition, a political party launched on the back of the flag protests, was officially established. He subsequently claimed that he left the party to Frazer and Rab McKee after a few months and bemoaned the failure of the group to make any impact on local politics.
Eastern Europe and Knights Templar International
Dowson relocated to Budapest, Hungary, and has been observed in several eastern European countries with his latest venture, the Knights Templar International (KTI), along with the former BNP leader Nick Griffin and a Hungarian anti-abortion campaigner Imre Teglasy. Dowson's last sighting, according to the Daily Mirror, was on the Turkey-Bulgaria border with the KTI supplying equipment to a vigilante paramilitary group, the Shipka Bulgarian National Movement, to hunt down asylum seekers. Dowson was subsequently reported as having developed close links with Russian extremist Aleksandr Dugin, with Dugin aiding Dowson in the establishment of a Belgrade office for his internet activity in support of the "alt-right".
In May 2017, it was reported by Hope not Hate that Dowson had been stopped from entering Hungary after the Hungarian Immigration Authority declared him an "undesirable individual" and barred him from entering the country in future. The move came as part of a wider crackdown by the Ministry of Interior on far-right individuals from across Europe using the country as their base, after Horst Mahler had been arrested trying to escape charges of Holocaust denial in Germany by entering Hungary.
In July 2016, Dowson established the "Patriot News Agency" to help elect Donald Trump as President of the United States. Dowson described his strategy as spreading "devastating anti-Clinton, pro-Trump memes and sound bites into sections of the population too disillusioned with politics to have taken any notice of conventional campaigning." The site published an article alleging that Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton was involved in "Satanism, pedophilia," murder, and "other conspiracies." According to the New York Times, postings on this site and others connected to Dowson, as well as Facebook pages "linked to him", were "viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times".
Whilst attending a far-right conference in Budapest in March 2017, Dowson announced his support for Scottish independence, despite his earlier unionist stances. Dowson stated "England is stuffed, England is stuffed totally" and advanced his belief that an independent Scotland "would protect us from the excesses of Muslim domination".
Kosovo military equipment
In May 2018 the BBC reported that Knights Templar International had claimed to have supplied ballistics vests and communications equipment to Kosovo. It also reported that Dowson had told Kosovan TV that he had personally taken such equipment there.
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- McIntire, Mike (17 December 2016). "How a Putin Fan Overseas Pushed Pro-Trump Propaganda to Americans". New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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