Indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador are holding at least eight police officers captive following anti-government protests.

The uniformed officers on Thursday were brought onto a stage by protesters who are based at a cultural centre in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. Indigenous groups are gathering for more protests against the removal of fuel subsidies, a step announced by President Lenin Moreno last week.

The announcement led to a sharp increase in fuel prices and unrest in many parts of the country. The discontent widened to include calls for the resignation of Moreno, who has refused to quit. Security concerns continue to mount as the threat of violence escalates throughout the capital.

“We denounce the interior militants and the minister of defence, who are applying undue levels of violence,” claimed Leonidas Iza, an Indigenous leader speaking to thousands of protesters.

Indigenous leader Jaime Vargas invited the captive police to join the anti-government campaign of the protesters.

Demonstrators face riot police during protests against Moreno’s austerity measures in Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Santiago Arcos/Reuters)

Elsewhere in Quito, security forces are patrolling after a day of protests that included clashes with police. Thousands of Indigenous people gathered in Quito on Thursday to march again against the government, intensifying pressure on the  president after a week of unrest sparked by fuel price hikes.

The military has appealed to Ecuadorians to denounce anyone who uses the cover of the protest to carry out vandalism and other crimes.

The military’s backing is key for Moreno, who has said that his government is negotiating with Indigenous groups.

Moreno has said dialogue is difficult because so many indigenous groups are involved and that he will not resign despite widespread discontent in the South American nation of 17 million.

A strong police and military presence was seen throughout the downtown area of Quito, particularly surrounding government buildings.