Massive, violent crowds protest Turkish leader's policies

A protester flashes a victory sign as he takes part in a demonstration in support of protests in Istanbul and against the Turkish prime minister and his ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, June 1, 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

(CBS News) ISTANBUL - Turkish police say more than 900 protesters were arrested Saturday in some 90 separate demonstrations across the country.

What started as outrage over plans to replace a park in Istanbul's Taksim Square with a shopping mall has become a national flashpoint, sparking anger over the policies of the prime minister.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people poured into the heart of Istanbul, where crowds have clashed violently with the police for two days.

These protests started with the unpopular plan to build a new shopping mall, but the anger has quickly spread to other cities, laying bare much deeper tensions that have simmered in Turkey for years.

The protesters' target is the country's democratically elected prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

His critics accuse him of behaving like a dictator, and they worry that Erdogan, who's an Islamist, wants to impose his own conservative values on others.

Last week, his government brought in new laws restricting the sale of alcohol, a move that's infuriated less religious Turks.

The police tried to break up the demonstrations with tear gas and water cannon.

Hundreds of people were injured in scuffles.

The prime minister admitted Saturday that the tear gas was heavy-handed, and in Istanbul the police retreated, allowing the protests to continue.

But Erdogan has made it clear that he has no intention of changing his policies.