Sussex Police said it attended “a large unlicensed music event” near Steyning on Sunday morning and has closed off surrounding roads.
The unlicensed event took place in a remote field in the rural town and the force estimated about 2,000 people had been at the rave.
Multiple people were arrested on suspicion of offences including drink and drug driving, possession of drugs and theft, and have been taken into custody, the force said.
It is expected that this figure will increase, making it one of the largest, unplanned operations Sussex Police has experienced in recent years.
Under current coronavirus rules, gatherings must not exceed 30 people unless covered by a legal exemption.
Videos posted on social media showed crowds gathered throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
In a statement, Sussex Police had said: “A significant number of people have travelled to the site from areas outside of Sussex, and enquiries are ongoing to identify the organisers responsible for this unauthorised event so enforcement action can be taken against them.
“Officers remain at the scene and will continue to robustly deal with people found to be committing crime and behaving in an anti-social manner. Those leaving the event are being proactively stopped to ensure drivers are in a fit state to drive.
“There continues to be disruption on the road network in the area owing to a large number of badly parked vehicles, and people are still urged to avoid the area if possible.”
Detective Superintendent Juliet Parker said: “Due to the mindless actions of a large number of people, the majority of whom have travelled from out of county, the community of Steyning has experienced significant disruption and I’d like to personally thank the public for their patience, understanding and co-operation as we sought to bring this event to a close.
“With a situation of this size, our utmost priority must be the safety of the public as well as our officers and emergency services colleagues at the scene. This therefore has required a significant police response involving officers from across Sussex as well as officers from surrounding forces. Officers who would have normally been dealing with serious crime and supporting the most vulnerable in our counties.
Detective Parker added that those who attended the rave demonstrated “a complete disregard for the local community, the heritage of the area and the existing Covid-19 regulations.”
“We will not tolerate behaviour like this within Sussex, as can be seen by the high volume of arrests made over the course of the event. We will continue to robustly investigate this illegal activity; seeking to further arrest and prosecute wherever possible.”
Illegal raves have been on the rise throughout the UK, despite ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Objects were thrown at police as the force engaged with people at the unlicensed music event off Forest Drive, and one man was arrested on suspicion of breaching coronavirus legislation.
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