Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter released a statement Sunday saying he's "deeply saddened by and strongly disagree[s]" with the "not guilty" verdict a jury returned Saturday night in the case of George Zimmerman, who was tried on charges of second-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of 17-year-old Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Nutter said while he respects the criminal justice system, "a young black man is dead without any real explanation."
"George Zimmerman took an innocent life," Nutter continued.
"Trayvon Martin, who at trial was made to appear threatening when all he had was a bag of Skittles and an ice[d] tea, should not have died at Zimmerman’s hands and I believe the jury should have exacted a penalty.
“As a parent, I can’t begin to know what Trayvon’s proud and dignified parents are feeling right now, but I pray for them in this dark hour. And I urge everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.
"The question now for all Americans is what are we to do in the wake of this tragic loss of life?"
Protesters already took to the streets in Philadelphia Saturday night, staging a vigil through Sunday morning at the Municipal Services Plaza.
A second rally is expected to be held at 6 p.m. Sunday in Love Park.
Nutter urged activists to remain peaceful.
"I believe everyone should be calm and reflective," he said.
"Every day in America, African American males die on our streets in outrageously alarming numbers.
"Whether they die at the hands of a vigilante or another African American male, we must all commit ourselves to eliminating the conditions in our community that cause too many people to see young African American males as 'threats' instead of seeing the promise within each child.
"If only we adults could find ways to offer a pathway of education and responsibility toward a productive life. We need to resolve to make life better in America for all our children, regardless of skin color. Let us focus our anger and resolve to work toward a more just, safer and more caring America."