Mayhem in Istanbul hotel as protesters seek refuge

(CBS News) ISTANBUL - It is a country that's always been at a crossroads geographically; a gateway between Europe and the Middle East.

Medics attend a wounded man at a hotel in the center of Istanbul, where protesters sought refuge from violent clashes.
Medics attend a wounded man at a hotel in the center of Istanbul, where protesters sought refuge from violent clashes. CBS News

Now, Turkey also appears to be at a crossroads politically, as clashes that began two weeks ago reached a new and dangerous level.

Anti-government demonstrators called for a million people to protest in the center of Istanbul today. The government responded by blocking access and staging its own rally. All this happened after a night of violent clashes.

First the police fired tear gas, then they stormed in to Gezi Park.

With rubber bullets and powerful water cannons, the Turkish police made sure all of the protesters were driven out.

Some took refuge in a nearby hotel.

Riot police rush to crush renewed Turkey protests
Turkish riot police disperse protesters in park
No clear result after Turkish PM, protesters meet

As the lobby became choked with tear gas, there was mayhem. A team of volunteer doctors helped the wounded, managing to get some of them to safety. Outside, the crowd pushed back against the police.

"They try to throw gas bomb into the hotel," one protester said. "We've got kids, we've got women trapped in the hotel. We need to simply get the police away from here. This is a necessity."

But the police stayed put, and the center of Istanbul descended into a night of chaos.

By this morning, the authorities had taken control of the park and nearby Taksim Square. But in the city's alleyways, thousands of defiant protesters played a game of cat and mouse with the police.

The demonstration started because the government wanted to bulldoze a park to build a shopping mall. But it's now become something much bigger. Protesters are angry with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep

Late night protests in Taksim Square
Late night protests in Taksim Square CBS News

Tayyip Erdogan.

The protesters say he's become dictatorial, trying to impose his own conservative, Islamic ideas on everyone.

But the Prime Minister still has many supporters. On Sunday, they turned out to a rally in their tens of thousands.

"We're behind Erdogan, and we always will be," said one man at the demonstration. "Until death, we'll support him."

There have long been tensions in Turkey between religious conservatives and those who want to keep all religion out of politics. With neither side willing to back down, and unions calling for general strike called for Monday, the clashes are likely to continue.